Warner Music Group Announces Plans to Go Public

Warner Music Group
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Warner Music Group announced on Thursday (Feb. 6) that it has submitted paperwork to begin an initial public offering of its common stock. 

The number of shares of common stock to be offered and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined. Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC are acting as the joint lead underwriters for the offering.

WMG's recorded music division generated $3.84 billion of revenue in fiscal year 2019, representing 86% of total revenues, according to the filing. The division is home to artists like Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Cardi B, and includes storied labels like Atlantic, Elektra, Warner Music Nashville and the recently-rebranded Warner Records.

Its publishing arm, Warner Chappell Music, has a catalog of more than 1.4 million copyrights, including from songwriters like Twenty One Pilots, Lizzo and Katy Perry. It generated $643 million of revenue in 2019, or 14% of total revenues. 

The company is also home to global music distribution company Alternative Distribution Alliance, live music app Songkick, EMP Merchandising and UPROXX. 

WMG was previously publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange until May 2011, when it announced its privatization and sale to multi-billionaire Len Blavatnik's U.S.-based industrial group, Access Industries LLC. That deal was completed in July 2011 for $3.3 billion. 

Since 2015, the music industry has been growing thanks largely to the success of streaming platforms. In 2018, the Recording Industry Association of America reported $9.8 billion revenue -- the best since 2007. Looking ahead, WMG anticipates continued growth across the global market. 

"We believe that, over time, streaming revenues will increase due to pricing increases as the broader market further develops," the company's S-1 filing says. "Streaming services are already at the early stages of experimenting with price increases. For example, in 2018, Spotify increased monthly prices for its service in Norway. In addition, in 2019, Amazon launched Amazon Music HD, a high-quality audio streaming offering that is available to customers at a premium price in the United States. We believe the value proposition that streaming provides to consumers supports premium product initiatives."

The S-1 filing also states Access Industries and Blavatnik will retain a majority of the voting shares and will operate as a "controlled company." That means, the current owners will keep an unknown majority percentage of outstanding shares and voting power, giving them "the ability to control the outcome of matters submitted to our stockholders for approval, including the election of our directors and the approval of any change in control transaction."

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