Sony buys EMI Music Publishing in $1.9bn deal

Tokyo (AFP) –


Japanese entertainment giant Sony Tuesday announced a $1.9-billion deal to acquire EMI Music Publishing, one of the world's largest music publishing companies with rights to songs by the likes of Queen and Pharrell Williams.

The deal adds a catalogue of more than two million songs -- including some of the greatest hits from the first half of the 20th century -- to Sony's already huge repertoire.

The agreement is Sony's first major deal under new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, who noted that the music business has enjoyed a "resurgence" in recent years due to streaming services provided by companies like Spotify and Apple.

With this purchase, Sony "is becoming one of the biggest music publishing companies, both in name and reality", Yoshida told reporters.

"We are thrilled to bring EMI Music Publishing into the Sony family and maintain our number-one position in the music publishing industry," Yoshida said in an earlier statement.

"I believe this acquisition will be a particularly significant milestone for our long-term growth," added Yoshira, who took over at the helm of Sony last month.

Sony said it had signed a deal with Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Mubadala to buy its 60-percent holding, giving the Japanese firm an indirect stake of approximately 90 percent.

The agreement values EMI Music Publishing at $4.75 billion, the Sony statement said, adding that "the closing of the transaction is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approvals."

Yoshida later Tuesday unveiled Sony's latest strategic plan, which is expected to focus more on content than hardware.

The electronics and entertainment behemoth last month reported record annual profits worth $4.5 billion, a roaring recovery supported by better sales across the board and helped by box office blockbusters like its Jumanji reboot.

Those figures were seen as a fitting send-off for Kazuo Hirai, who recently stepped down as the firm's chief executive after spending the past six years pulling the firm out of deep financial troubles.

Hirai led an aggressive restructuring drive at Sony, cutting thousands of jobs while selling business units and assets.

- 'Over the rainbow' -

EMI is the second-largest music publishing company by revenue and either owns or holds the rights to 2.1 million pieces of music.

It either owns or administers some two million songs, including classics by the likes of Queen and Sam Smith and Pharrell Williams.

As for Sony, it already owns 2.3 million copyrights, including the Beatles catalogue, as well as being a massive player in IT, communications, film and gaming.

EMI holds a "comprehensive and diverse collection of copyrights for music and lyrics" from a "wide variety of iconic and popular songwriters", the statement said.

Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow" continues to be a top-10 money-spinner even today, more than 75 years after its initial release, it added.

Current songwriters under its banner include Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Drake, Pink, Fetty Wap and Hozier.

Investors appeared dubious about the acquisition however, with Sony stock down around 0.6 percent in the first few minutes of trade, underperforming the wider Japanese market which was flat.