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EMI in Talks to Buy Warner Music Group

EMI Group PLC said Monday it is discussing the possibility of buying Warner Music Group from AOL Time Warner Inc., three years after European regulatory opposition ended their discussions about a possible joint venture.

If there were a deal, the combined companies would become the world’s second-largest music group behind Universal. Artists for Warner Music include Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cher, while EMI artists include The Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson and Billy Idol.

“Discussions are at a very preliminary stage and there is no assurance that they will result in an agreement acceptable to both parties,” EMI said in a statement.

It added any deal would be subject to approval by shareholders and regulators.

A call before business hours Monday in New York to a spokesman for AOL Time Warner was not immediately returned.

The EMI Group statement followed a report in The Sunday Times newspaper that EMI had offered $1 billion in cash plus EMI shares worth about $500 million for Warner Music.

Talks in 2000 about a possible joint venture with Time Warner before it had merged with AOL, were called off because European Union regulators opposed the deal.

The following year, EU opposition also stopped EMI’s bid to merge its music publishing business with that of German media group Bertelsmann AG. A combined EMI-Bertelsmann would have been the world’s largest recorded music company, with a market share of 26 percent.

AOL Time Warner announced on Friday it was dropping the “AOL” from its name. It plans to phase in the name change over the next few weeks.

In trading in London, EMI shares were down 1.7 percent at 155.5 pence ($2.49).

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