Universal wins approval
Vivendi’s Universal Music Group has won EU regulatory approval for its US$1.9 billion purchase of EMI’s recorded music business after agreeing to sell labels that account for about a third of the British company’s revenues. Universal said on Friday it would sell on some of EMI’s most prized assets, such as the Parlophone label, home to star acts like Coldplay and Queen, in a move which some analysts said significantly reduced the attractiveness of the deal. “The whole point of the deal was the back catalogue and getting EMI’s artists. But when you look at the bands they had to give away, they are some of their best ones,” said Conor O’Shea, analyst at Kepler Capital Markets. Nonetheless, the deal cements Universal’s No.1 position in the European music industry, with a vast library of current top-selling and legendary names including Jay-Z, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Robbie Williams, Pink Floyd and The Beatles.
Leaders scrutinize merger
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were to scrutinize plans by EADS and BAE Systems to form an aerospace and defense giant yesterday, but are unlikely to give final go-ahead to a merger fraught with economic and security concerns. Airbus maker EADS is anxious for stakeholders France and Germany to set out their position on the merger, and has warned that if Berlin and Paris’ approval is tied to too many conditions it could abandon the proposed US$45 billion union. Under British stock market rules, EADS and BAE have until Oct. 10 to announce whether they will go ahead. Executives of both firms are engaged in a hectic charm offensive directed at political leaders, but investors fear a lack of synergies and that heavy state interference could hamstring the future company.
Wal-Mart to open in India
Wal-Mart plans to open retail outlets in India in the next 12 to 18 months, the company said on Friday, making it the first multinational to jump on the government’s decision to open the country’s huge retail market to foreign players. Raj Jain, the managing director of Bharti Wal-Mart, a joint venture that operates 17 outlets that cater to small businesses in India, confirmed by email that Wal-Mart plans to open stores that serve consumers over the next 18 months, but declined to say how many. New Delhi first tried to enact the measure last year, but backed down in the face of resistance from coalition partners, badly damaging its credibility with global investors. Prior to the reversal, foreign retailers like Wal-Mart could only operate wholesale outlets.
Web site to remove feature
Facebook said on Friday it had switched off the facial-recognition tool that prompts users to “tag” photographs uploaded to its Web site following a privacy investigation. The feature was identified by regulators as one of the main privacy threats posed by the social networking site. Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes, who launched the probe because Facebook’s European operations are based in Ireland, said he was happy that the site had agreed to remove the tool in Europe by Oct. 15.