Tension Rises Around Today's Universal-EMI Hearing

21 June 2012 | 2:03 pm | Scott Fitzsimons

UMG have already received a list of objections from the Euro Commission

Tension is growing ahead of the American Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Universal Music Group's proposed acquisition of EMI Music's recorded music division.

The $1.9 billion deal, struck last year, is subject to anti-trust regulators before it can be confirmed. As well as an examination from the European Commission, an American Senate panel will take a look at the proposed deal on Thursday, American time.

Billboard reports that stakeholders in the hearing are upping the ante on their lobbying and spending ahead of the deal. The Warner Music Group, a critic of the deal after they missed out on the EMI sale, are believed to have upped their lobbying spend from $100,000 to $360,000 in this year's first quarter. 60 percent of that has allegedly gone to the Recording Industry Association of America to fund their lobbying.

Universal on the other hand have hired lobbying firm Capitol Hill Strategies which employs Paul Bock, former chief of staff to Senator Herb Kohl - chairman of the subcommittee that will hold Thursday's hearing.

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"It was clearly a strategic move on their part to hire someone who knows how Senator Kohl thinks," analyst Alex Bronstein-Moffly said.

EMI's owners Citibank spend $1.5 million on lobbyist in the first quarter, but given they're a well-connected financial institution it's unclear how much was spent on the Universal-EMI sale.

News of the lobbying frenzy comes after the European Commission presented a list of objections to Universal. The major label replied in a statement, "As part of the European Commission's customary process when considering mergers, they have provided us with a statement of objections.

"We are preparing a detailed response to the Commission's statement, which will address the concerns outlined in this procedural document. We will continue to work closely with the Commission and look forward to securing regulatory clearance."

The European regulators have until 6 September to rule on the proposed acquisition and have already given clearance for the Sony/ATV-led consortium's capture of the publishing division.

EMI executive Bart Cools told theMusic.com.au recently that the label's staff are resigned to a change of ownership, whatever happens.