EMI Music Publishing will close its office in the Netherlands June 30 with the Belgium arm of the company set to shut June 14, Arjen Witte, managing director, EMI Publishing, Netherlands, has confirmed to Billboard.biz.

A total of 16 employees -- 12 in Holland and 4 in Belgium - will lose their jobs as a result. Witte will be among those leaving the company in the Netherlands.

According to Witte, only customer relationships (copyrights & royalties) will continue to be handled directly from the Netherlands.

Requests for synch deals, meanwhile, will be handled by staff in the German sales department.

A&R staff located in the United Kingdom and Sweden will handle the interests of Benelux composers, Witte explains.

News of EMI Music Publishing shuttering the Netherlands and Belgium offices broke June 2, following growing media speculation that EMI's publishing arm was planning to cut a number of senior executive positions across Europe.

In an internal e-mail sent earlier this week by EMI Music Publishing chairman and CEO Roger Faxon to Dutch composers -- which Billboard.biz has seen and confirms the closures of the Dutch and Flemish offices -- Faxon cites the worldwide downturn in music sales, the struggling digital market, the economic recession and piracy as key factors behind the restructuring of European operations.

"We are making some changes to the way we organize ourselves here at EMI Music Publishing in Europe," Faxon says.

"Where we had stand-alone businesses in each country of Europe, we are now forging ourselves into one business stretching from Scandinavia to the U.K., from Spain to Germany, from Italy to the Netherlands and beyond to every part of Europe," the e-mail later states, before stressing that the closure of the Hilversum and Brussels offices does not mean that EMI Music Publishing is leaving Holland and Belgium.

"We will be working with the societies. We will be servicing the record companies. We will be providing a better and more effective service by bringing to bear the resources of the whole European organization."

When contacted by Billboard.biz, following initial reports of the closures, EMI would not confirm or deny any closures but did issue a statement saying, "the country-based structures that other music companies cling to are not delivering the kind of service that their artists need or the revenues that they deserve."

Arjen Witte doesn't recognize the Dutch arm of the publisher in that description, however, telling Billboard.biz, "Our operation has always been very profitable," without enclosing exact figures.

EMI MP Holland has contracts with local acts like Anouk, Voicst and Diggy Dex; the Belgian office with acts like Hooverphonic, dEUS and Axelle Red. It is unclear whether or not this new situation entitles composers to open up their contracts.

News of the closures has, meanwhile, provoked fierce criticism in the Dutch music industry.

André de Raaff, CEO, Imagem Music Group, speculates in Dutch trade magazine Entertainment Business that the closure of these offices "can only mean the company will be sold".

"If this is really only about cost cutting, I think it's an incredibly dumb move," he is quoted as saying, adding, "It looks like they want to make a healthy company even healthier in order to keep an ill patient [the recorded music branch] alive for some time."

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