Sorry, Warner Music Group
The $4.7 billion deal -- closer to $6.3 billion in proposed enterprise value, actually, once you factor in EMI's debt -- trumps Warner's earlier overtures to land its fellow major music label.
Warner and EMI have been teasing one another with takeover love songs over the past year. The tune changed after the European Court of First Instance ruled that the 2004 union of Sony
However, Warner wasn't willing to give up that easily. It agreed to certain concessions to make the deal happen earlier this year. Warner may still crash the party with a higher bid, but the potential regulatory speedbumps make a private equity deal EMI's best fit right now.
Ironically, EMI made this announcement just as it reported abysmal financial results for fiscal 2007. Pre-tax profits plunged 61% for the year, on a 16% top-line slide. But that funky performance is the reason why EMI's on the block to begin with. And just so we're not kidding ourselves here, Warner and private equity groups are sniffing around EMI right now for the sake of its storied past, not its lackluster present.
Despite a handful of currently relevant artists on its roster, including Coldplay, Norah Jones, Yellowcard, Gorillaz, and Keith Urban, EMI's real value lies in its catalog. Legends like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Queen give EMI a fat library of monster content just begging to be exploited in the digital music revolution.
EMI is doing a good job of that on its own, growing its digital distribution business to nearly 10% of its overall revenue, and leading the way with DRM-free deals through companies like Apple
However, the future begs for leaner labels with a greater emphasis on revenue-sharing deals with artists. The industry will look very different in a few years, and that's the kind of heavy lifting hard-hat work better suited for private equity ownership.
Let EMI go, Warner. The future will be challenging enough already. You don't need the extra weight.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz once had his band signed to Sony's Columbia Records label. It didn't exactly pan out. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.