Pan-European independent labels body Impala has blasted the European Commission's decision to allow Sony Corporation's acquisition of the Sony BMG joint venture as "incredible."

In a statement, Impala railed against the ruling. "The commission needs to completely reassess its view of the music market," declared Impala co-president Michel Lambot. "They have just let the world's largest consumer electronics company merge with the second largest music company without any detailed investigation."

According to the statement, issued last night, Impala "finds it incredible that the Commission can take such a consequential decision without carrying out an in-depth investigation."

The Commission cleared the proposed acquisition under the European Union Merger Regulation. As far as the EC is concerned, Sony Corporation of America is now free to acquire the 50% share held by Bertelsmann AG of Germany in Sony BMG. It has already been announced that the operation will be renamed Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

According to Impala, the Sony move "will fully integrate the world's second largest music company with the largest consumer electronics company, creating a wide array of new vertical and horizontal problems as the industry progresses toward digital delivery of music through multiple platforms."

But in a statement, the EC said it had concluded that "the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it."

It added: "The Commission's investigation found that the transaction would not lead to any horizontal overlaps in the music recording markets, examined at the creation of Sony BMG, as Sony has no other music recording activities in the EEA."

However, Impala co-president said in the body's statement, "It is difficult for us to understand how there can be such a difference between what the Commission says and what the Commission does. Cultural diversity is meant to be properly taken into account in all decisions. Merger control rules must be adapted to cultural industries."

The original merger of Sony Music and BMG was approved by the EC on July 19 2004. Impala led independent sector protests against the merger, but it was approved again on Oct. 3 2007.

The EC statement says that, its investigation had showed that, "in line with previous findings in the 2004 and 2007 decisions," the proposed transaction would be "unlikely to induce coordinated effects between music companies."

Andreas Grafemeyer, Senior Vice President of Media Relations Bertelsmann, told Billboard that this EC approval was only part of the approvals process under antitrust law, alongside U.S. antitrust procedures. He said Bertelsmann would only comment when the final approval of all the relevant authorities had been received.

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