EU wants Universal response on EMI by Jul 3 -source

BRUSSELS, June 21 Thu Jun 21, 2012 10:24pm IST

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BRUSSELS, June 21 (Reuters) - Vivendi's Universal Music Group has until July 3 to counter EU regulatory concerns on its planned purchase of EMI's recorded music unit for $1.9 billion, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Universal said on Tuesday that the European Commission had formally set out its objections to the EMI deal, which would combine its stars such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna with the British music label's catalogues including The Beatles and Katy Perry.

The 194-page statement of objections could put pressure on Universal to offer to sell some catalogues or propose improved licensing deals to rivals and online services to get clearance for the takeover.

A consortium led by Sony secured EU approval to buy EMI's separate music publishing business in April after agreeing to sell some catalogues.

EMI seller Citigroup Inc took over the record label after its previous owner, Guy Hands' buyout firm Terra Firma, defaulted on loans owed to the investment bank.

Last week, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia expressed concerns about the market power of the combined group, almost twice the size of its nearest rival in Europe, and its impact on the digital music market.

He will decide by Sept. 6 whether to clear or block the acquisition, which is opposed by independent rivals and competitor Warner. Universal could ask for an oral hearing to plead its case before the decision.

Universal said the deal has secured its first regulatory clearance after competition enforcers in New Zealand gave the green light.

"The New Zealand Commerce Commission today notified us that they have approved Universal Music's acquisition of EMI Recorded Music -- the first jurisdiction in the world to do so with this transaction," the music company said in a statement.

Universal will be seeking to convince U.S. lawmakers on the merits of the deal at a congressional hearing on Thursday, with big-name allies to back it up.

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