Will MAMA sale herald a new competition query?

April 2012

Live events industry

HMV’s plan to sell its live music division, the MAMA Group, has now entered its second stage, after passing the deadline for first round bids. It seems interested bidders include both AEG Live and Live Nation’s Academy Group, both of whom already own UK venues. Live Nation’s acquisition of the Academy Music Group itself in 2007 prompted a Competition Commission enquiry which passed the sale, subject to the sale of two of AMG’s London venues and it will be interesting to see what competition regulators make of a combined Live Nation-MAMA or AEG-MAMA. The jewel in the MAMA crown is the Hammersmith Apollo, which CMU Daily reported “would be a perfect addition to AEG’s UK venue portfolio, especially in the burgeoning live comedy market, the West London Apollo venue being the stepping stone a-list stand ups take before reaching the ultimate goal of selling out AEG’s The O2 Arena on the east side of the capital”. Whether AEG would be interested in MAMA’s other businesses, in the festivals, artist management and marketing partnership domains, isn’t clear, and it seems possible that MAMA co-founder Dean James could head a partial management buy-out.

In a statement HMV said “HMV Group plc notes the recent press speculation regarding the strategic review of the HMV Live business. HMV can confirm that this review remains ongoing and that a number of parties have indicated an interest in acquiring the business. At this stage, there can be no certainty that any transaction will be concluded and a further announcement will be made as and when appropriate”.

Universal’s bid to buy EMI is heading into a full second phase investigation at the European level, according to sources cited by the Financial Times. This will come as a surprise to more or less no one, given the complexities of the proposed deal, though the FT also claims that “the European Commission this week privately expressed its serious doubts over the impact on competition from the purchase of EMI” and it’s thought that an important part of phase two of the EC’s investigation into Universal’s EMI bid will focus on the digital landscape, where the record companies generally do not licence collectively (yet) and where the large catalogue owners can therefore make significant demands on start-up services who cannot afford to go live without the main two majors – Universal and Sony – on board. Indie label association IMPALA welcomed the EU concerns and also commented “Universal’s parent Vivendi had its credit rating recently put up for review due to the regulatory concerns raised by the proposed acquisition of its thriving competitor, EMI. And concerns were also raised about its past record regarding commitments in other competition cases”. From both a consumer and from a recording artist perspective the merger is an important one with a combined UMG-EMI having 40%+ of the recorded music sector (and with more than 50% in some countries including France).

CMU Daily 14 March and 20th March 2012 and comment on an US take on the UMG-EMI merger here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-naoum/tell-the-ftc-to-stop-the-_b_1353775.html

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