Chinese tech firm increases stake in Universal Music to 20%

UMG valued at €30bn after consortium led by Tencent Music exercises option to double stake

The Chinese technology company Tencent has doubled its stake in Universal Music to 20% as the streaming boom drives the world’s largest music company towards a stock market flotation in the next two years.

UMG’s parent company, Vivendi, which is controlled by the French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, said a consortium led by Tencent had exercised an option to acquire a further 10%, confirming the music group’s valuation at €30bn (£27bn). UMG is home to artists including Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar.

The consortium, which includes Tencent Music, completed a deal to buy its first 10% stake for €3bn in March, with an option to double. The option was due to expire in mid-January.

Vivendi welcomed the decision to exercise the option, and said Tencent and its co-investors would “enable UMG to further develop its activities in Asia”.

In a separate but linked deal, Tencent Music has acquire a minority stake in UMG’s “Greater China” operation for an undisclosed sum. Greater China encompasses mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau.

Vivendi said it had investment banks looking to sell additional minority stakes in UMG, and that it was still planning to list the business on the stock market “at the latest in 2022”.

“The cash generated by these transactions may be used by Vivendi to reduce its financial debt and to finance share buybacks and acquisitions,” it said.

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Tencent owns stakes in a wide range of businesses, including 9.1% of Spotify, the world’s biggest music streaming service with more than 300 million users.

Streaming has revived the music industry after more than a decade of plummeting CD sales and piracy. Last year, global music sales grew for the fifth consecutive year, to $20.2bn (£14.9bn), having hit a low of $14bn in 2013.

In June, Warner Music, the world’s third-biggest record company, home to artists including Ed Sheehan and Dua Lipa, listed on the US stock market. The business, which was acquired by the billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik in 2011 for $3.3bn, is now valued at $18bn.


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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