Japanese entertainment giant Sony on Tuesday unveiled a $1.9-billion deal to buy industry titan EMI Music Publishing, which has the rights to songs by the likes of Queen and Pharrell Williams.
The deal adds a catalogue of more than two million songs — including some of the greatest hits from the 20th century — to Sony’s already huge repertoire.
The agreement is Sony’s first major deal under new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, who noted the music business has enjoyed a “resurgence” in recent years due to streaming services provided by companies such as Spotify and Apple.
With this purchase, Sony “is becoming one of the biggest music publishing companies, both in name and reality”, Yoshida told reporters.
“We are thrilled to bring EMI Music Publishing into the Sony family and maintain our number one position in the music publishing industry,” Yoshida said in an earlier statement.
“I believe this acquisition will be a particularly significant milestone for our long-term growth,” added Yoshira, who took the Sony helm last month.
Sony said it had signed a deal with Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Mubadala to buy its 60 percent holding, giving the Japanese firm a stake of about 90 percent.
The agreement values EMI Music Publishing at $4.75 billion, the Sony statement said, adding that “the closing of the transaction is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approvals”.
Yoshida also Tuesday unveiled Sony’s latest strategic plan, which aims to bolster its content business — pursuing the direction his predecessor Kazuo Hirai had taken to revitalise one of Japan’s best-known firms.
“We are a technology firm, but the technology means not only electronics but also entertainment and content-creation” in today’s world, Yoshida said.
Sony will continue to build up its content services — as shown by Tuesday’s deal — and also invest heavily in cutting-edge technologies including image sensors, he said.
– ‘Over the Rainbow’ –
“This is part of Sony’s strategy under Yoshida to beef up its entertainment businesses,” noted Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute in Tokyo.
“In the music business, copyrights are crucial. So the deal is meaningful and its price appears practical and reasonable,” the analyst told AFP, adding that success would depend on the quality of the content Sony creates in the future.
The electronics and entertainment behemoth last month reported record annual profits of $4.5 billion, a roaring recovery supported by better sales across the board and helped by box office blockbusters like its Jumanji reboot.
Those figures were seen as a fitting send-off for Hirai, who recently stepped down as the firm’s chief executive after spending the past six years pulling the firm out of deep financial trouble.
Hirai led an aggressive restructuring drive at Sony, cutting thousands of jobs while selling business units and assets.
EMI is the second-largest music publishing company by revenue and either owns or administers some two million songs, including classics by the likes of Queen, Sam Smith and Pharrell Williams.
As for Sony, it already owns 2.3 million copyrights including the Beatles catalogue, as well as being a massive player in IT, communications, film and gaming.
EMI holds a “comprehensive and diverse collection of copyrights for music and lyrics” from a “wide variety of iconic and popular songwriters”, the statement said.
Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” continues to be a top-10 money-spinner even today, more than 75 years after its initial release, it added.
Current songwriters under its banner include Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Drake, Pink, Fetty Wap and Hozier.
Investors, however, appeared dubious about the acquisition and the new strategic plan, with Sony stock closing down nearly two percent, underperforming the wider market which was down 0.42 percent.