The U.K.'s Takeover Panel has demanded that any suitors for EMI Group Plc must make a firm offer by noon Thursday (July 19).

The Panel, an independent body that regulates the country's mergers and acquisitions, requires all suitors to state unequivocally whether or not they plan to make an offer.

European private equity firm Terra Firma has already shown its card with a £2.4 billion ($4.89 billion) offer originally made in May.

Following a few deadline extensions for EMI shareholders' total acceptance, Terra Firma said July 13 it had collected 3.82% of the music group's shares. As previously reported, the equity firm has also given the remaining shareholders up to July 19 to approve the offer. July 19 is also the date set for EMI's annual general meeting.

The Takeover Panel's deadline demand is aimed at drawing-out two other potential buyers: Warner Music Group and former EMI CEO Jim Fifield.

"On 11 June 2007, Warner issued an announcement confirming that it was continuing to consider an offer for EMI. On 25 May 2007, Mr Fifield issued an announcement that he remained interested in potentially making an offer for EMI," the panel's statement said.

"The Panel Executive has ruled that Warner and Mr Fifield must separately clarify these statements...by 12 noon on Thursday 19 July. No extension to this deadline will be granted, except with the consent of the Panel Executive."

Industry sources say some EMI shareholders are concerned about the uncertainty surrounding WMG and Fifield's bids.

EMI's share price dropped 0.25 pence ($0.51) to 266.5 pence ($5.43) after the markets opened this morning.

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