A group led by Japan's Sony is seeking EU regulatory approval to buy London-based record label EMI's music publishing business in a move that would see it become the biggest player in the sector, the European Commission said on Tuesday.
Sony, with Blackstone Group, Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Co., Raine Group and movie mogul David Geffen outbid rival BMG with their offer valuing EMI's publishing activities at $2.2 billion (1.4 billion pounds).
The EU Commission, the executive body which acts as the competition regulator for the 27-country European Union, said it would decide whether to clear the acquisition by April 2.
Sony is currently the fourth player in music publishing, behind Vivendi's Universal Music Group, EMI and Warner Music.
The group is expected to cite already strong competition in the music publishing business that it says would remain strong even if the deal went ahead, as part of its arguments to EU regulators.
It will also cite the growing presence of online rivals such as Apple, Amazon and Spotify.
Impala, a trade organisation representing Europe's independent music companies, urged the Commission to block the deal, saying it would give Sony excessive power and also overly concentrate the market.
Impala achieved some success in blocking the 2004 merger of Sony and Bertelsmann's BMG, which had been cleared by the Commission. But the deal was eventually cleared in 2007, after a second review.
The Commission is also assessing Universal's bid to acquire EMI's recorded music unit, with a decision scheduled by March 23.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)