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EMI posts $2.4 billion net loss

The  EMI Group, at the center of an acrimonious legal dispute between the buyout house  Terra Firma and  Citigroup, posted a full-year £1.56 billion net loss and said it needed more money to stay afloat, Reuters said Thursday.

The deal by Guy Hands’s Terra Firma at the height of the buyout bubble in 2007 has come to epitomize the worst aspects of private equity dealmaking, with a high debt burden and a weak performance crippling the business.

The music industry, and the recorded music division in particular, has been severely hit in recent years by mass illegal downloading and the move away from album sales to single digital tracks.

In a statement on Thursday, EMI said it had recorded a net loss of £1.6 billion for the year to end-March 2009, against a £412 million loss a year earlier.

The loss included an impairment charge of £1.04 billion after it wrote down the value of its catalogue, and restructuring costs of £136 million.

The group also warned of a “likely significant” shortfall when the covenants on its £2.6 billion debt are tested at the end of March 2010.

DealBook  reported earlier this week that Terra Firma has already written to investors to tell them it may need to inject about £120 million into EMI to keep the company within its covenants until March 2011.

Any additional money to bail out the investment will come out of Terra Firma’s second and third buyout funds, given that money set aside in the EMI acquisition vehicle, Maltby Capital, is nearly exhausted, Reuters reported.

The private equity firm has asked EMI to put together a business plan which the firm will consider before asking investors to put in more money.

EMI, now the smallest of the four major record labels, infuriated some of its biggest acts, including Robbie Williams, with a shake-up aimed at cutting costs and increasing Internet sales to better compete with majors like the Universal Music Group and the  Warner Music Group.

As part of the turnaround plan, it cut up to 2,000 jobs. But it also lost some of its biggest acts, including  Radiohead, in the ensuing upheaval. Terra Firma is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with Citigroup relating to its £4 billion deal for EMI in 2007, and is seeking billions in damages.

The private equity firm lodged a claim with a New York court last year accusing the bank of inflating the price of the business by not revealing that the only other bidder,  Cerberus Capital Management, had withdrawn from the auction.

Citigroup is contesting the claim and has asked that the case be moved to London, a potentially problematic situation for Mr. Hands, who moved to Guernsey last year to protest Britain’s tax regime.

EMI’s umbrella of record labels includes both Virgin Records, Capitol Records and most notably, The Beatles.

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