European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti is to recommend that Sony Music and BMG be granted regulatory approval for their merger, officials said late today (June 17).

European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti is to recommend that Sony Music and BMG be granted regulatory approval for their merger, officials said late today (June 17).

Representatives for Sony Music and BMG had no comment.

The decision came after Monti -- the European Union's anti-trust chief -- concluded that evidence of price collusion and market dominance among the music majors was not solid enough to justify blocking the merger. The go-ahead was given without concessions by either Sony or BMG, officials say.

Officials say that the two days of hearings on the merger earlier this week in Brussels failed to unearth a "smoking gun" that would prove that the majors control CD prices. This was despite the EC's Statement of Objections to the merger, which last month accused the five companies of colluding in a tacit cartel.

"The Commission has to act on the evidence before it, and there simply wasn't enough on the table," one EC source tells Billboard.biz. "The burden of proof is much stronger now. And the proof wasn't there."

In 2000, Warner Music Group and EMI attempted a merger, but that was abandoned after the EC also warned of collusion. But in 2002, the EC lost an EU Court of Justice case over an early collusion decision in the package-tour sector, and was warned that any future actions had to be fully justified.

The Sony BMG merger still faces anti-trust approval in the United States.

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