On Thursday the New York Post reported that Terra Firma is in talks to sell a stake in EMI Music Publishing. One participant in those talks is Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which would buy a minority stake in EMI’s publishing division and combine the operations into a separate entity. KKR already owns half of BMG Rights Management, the music publishing company created by KKR and Bertelsmann. A source told the Post that KKR is not in a rush to do a deal.
KKR has eyed EMI in the past. In March, a report claimed KKR and Warner Music Group had discussed a bid for EMI in the event it went up for sale. In such a scenario, KKR would take EMI’s publishing division and Warner would take its recorded music division.
Terra Firma needs more money to steer clear of defaulting on its debt with Citigroup. It raised 105 million pounds ($156 million) earlier this month, but that money will keep it out of default only until March. In the long term, Terra Firma needs much more money for future equity injections. The sale of a stake in its publishing division would provide Terra Firma a much-needed lifeline and give it time to execute its five-year business plan.
Because the publishing division is the far healthier of the company’s two divisions, this news may come as a surprise to many people. The recorded music division receives the majority of the speculation because it is less financially stable. In contrast, the publishing division has seemed like an untouchable entity. Earlier this year, for example, Terra Firma was in talks with some of its competitors for a sales and distribution deal for its catalog in North America and possibly other territories. No deal was worked out, and Terra Firma ended up raising money from previous investors.