WSJ US BusinessTencent Doubles Stake in Universal Music Group

December 18, 20200

Billie Eilish is one of Universal Music’s biggest stars.

Photo: /Associated Press

Tencent Holdings Ltd. TCEHY 0.04% is doubling its stake in the music giant behind Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish.

The Chinese internet company said Friday it was leading a consortium that had agreed to buy an additional 10% stake in Universal Music Group from Vivendi VIVHY 2.31% SE, in a deal that values the world’s largest music business at 30 billion euros, equivalent to $36.8 billion.

The deal bolsters Tencent’s growing presence in the record industry and its exposure to some of the biggest names in music. Universal’s stable also includes classic acts such as Queen and the Beatles, and it recently bought Bob Dylan’s entire publishing catalog.

The purchase comes nearly a year after the Tencent-led consortium, which includes its streaming business Tencent Music Entertainment Group and other undisclosed investors, first bought a 10% stake in Universal. That deal included an option to buy an additional stake of up to 10% at the same valuation.

Tencent and Vivendi also signed a separate agreement in March enabling Tencent Music to acquire a minority stake in the Universal subsidiary that owns the record label’s Greater China operations.

The Chinese company also earlier this year purchased a small stake in Warner Music Group Corp. , home to stars including Cardi B, Ed Sheeran and Lizzo.

For Vivendi, Friday’s deal cements a relationship with Tencent that it hopes will enable Universal to further develop its activities in Asia, with the companies working together to broaden opportunities for artists.

The stake sale also allows the French media conglomerate, which will retain an 80% stake in Universal, to further cash in on a resurgent music industry.

Owning and selling rights to music has become more valuable in recent years as revenue from music streaming on services such as Spotify Technology SA and Apple Inc.’s Apple Music has grown.

Vivendi, whose operations span television and videogame production to marketing, said it could use the proceeds from the deal to pay down debt, buy back shares and fund acquisitions.

It also said it would now seek to sell additional minority interests in Universal, which it plans to list on the stock market in 2022 at the latest.

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