EMI Group accounted for 16.1% of all albums sold in the U.K. in the first quarter of 2007, behind Universal but level with Sony BMG and ahead of Warner Music Group, market data seen by Reuters shows.

The U.K. has traditionally been one of EMI's strongest markets but a recent unsourced media report suggested its share there had fallen to 6%.

The data putting EMI, the world's third largest music group, was produced by the Official U.K. Charts Company and seen by Reuters. The OCC does not make public its data and refused to comment about it when asked. Two other independent sources confirmed the data to be correct, however.

According to the figures, Vivendi's Universal Music led the way with a market share of 32.8%, EMI and Sony BMG were level with 16.1% while Warner had 9.4%.

EMI artists including Robbie Williams struggled over the Christmas period but artists Norah Jones and Joss Stone have sold well, especially in the U.S. market.

EMI issued two profit warnings in the first two months of the year due to weak Christmas and U.S. sales and it will issue a trading update on Wednesday.

In March, it said it had rejected a £2.1 billion ($4.2 billion) cash takeover proposal from Warner, saying the price was inadequate and not in the best interests of its shareholders.

Warner Music had indicated it might be prepared to make a bid at 260 pence per share, down from last year when it offered 320 pence.

A large Warner shareholder, Scott Sperling of Thomas H. Lee Partners, told a Reuters Hedge Funds and Private Equity Summit last week that declining profits and growth at EMI were becoming "increasingly problematic" and 320 pence was "not anywhere near what you'd want to pay today".

Analysts have said an EMI-Warner tie up would make sense as the two groups would complement each other geographically but this argument would be weakened if the London-based group was struggling in the U.K.

EMI's share price fell 3.2% on Tuesday to 212-/4 pence before closing at 215p. EMI declined to comment on the data.

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