Media conglomerate Vivendi, the Paris-based parent of Universal Music Group, officially sought approval from the European Union to purchase London-based EMI Group's recorded-music business, the European Commission announced Monday on its Web site.
The commission set an initial March 23 deadline to decide on the proposal. The deal is receiving antitrust scrutiny since a combined company would control more than half the market share in parts of Europe.
Warner Music Group, a competitor that has long sought to buy EMI, plans to fight the deal tooth-and-nail, retiring Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. said in an interview with AllThingsD in January.
I don't see how reasonable regulators either in the U.S. or Europe can countenance it, Bronfman said, arguing that Universal's market share will allow the company to negatively drive down the price of record deals for artists.
Impala, which represents independent music companies, also plans to fight the merger and said it expects an outright 'no' to protect online market and consumer prices.
Keeping the online market as open as possible is essential for competition and for responding to piracy, as well as other market problems, Impala chairwoman Helen Smith said in a statement. Turning music into a two-horse race would hamper the natural development of the market and increase prices. No level of divestments or behavioral undertakings would prevent that from happening.
Impala, which in 2006 successfully launched a court challenge against a proposed merger between Sony and Bertelsmann records labels, has not said whether it will launch a court challenge of the Universal-EMI merger.
Universal Music Group announced November 2011 its intention to purchase EMI's recorded music division for £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion). The company agreed to sell €500 million ($659 million) worth of non-core assets if the deal was approved.
EMI, a wholly owned subsidiary of New York-based Citigroup, is also selling its publishing unit to a Sony Corp.-led group, which includes billionaire recording mogul David Geffen, for $2.2 billion.
The Federal Trade Commission has been looking into the deal since its announcement, but has not offered an opinion on the matter.
Vivendi ADRs rose seven cents to $21.75