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Europe stays schtum on AOL/Time Warner merger ruling

Appears to be willing to let EMI/Warner merger go ahead after all

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European Commission anti-trust regulators said today they have yet to come to a firm conclusion as to whether AOL's proposed merger with Time Warner should be allowed to stand.

Nor has the Commission made up its mind whether TW's Warner Music subsidiary should be allowed to take over EMI, one of its fellow 'big five' global recording companies.

Today's announcement came after early insider reports suggested that the EC would come to a decision well ahead of the late-October deadline the regulators have to announce their recommendation by. The Commission is due to announce its verdict on the AOL/Time Warner merger by 24 October - the deadline for the EMI/Warner team-up is 18 October.

"There is no draft decision circulated by the Competition Commissioner in either of those two cases," said commission spokesman Michael Tscherny. "All options are open at this stage."

That's not exactly what insiders say. Last week, EU sources told Reuters that the AOL/Time Warner merger, valued at $135 billion, will be allowed to proceed, but the EMI/Warner tie-up will be rejected. Yesterday, it emerged that the Commission is now thinking that the latter should be permitted to go ahead too, presumably after EMI and Warner agreed to sell off parts of both companies in order to calm anti-competitive fears. Speculation has centred on the sale of EMI's Virgin label. ®

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