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The European Commission has approved the merger of Sony and BMG's respective music units.

Competition Commissioner Mario Monti gave the deal the nod despite complaints from other labels and smaller independents that a merger would reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. There are no conditions attached to EC approval.

The new firm will account for 23 per cent of worldwide music sales, and one in three new releases in the US, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It still requires approval from the Federal Trade Commission in the US but that is expected within days.

The deal will leave 80 per cent of the market in the hands of the "big four" - Sony/BMG, Vivendi Universal, EMI and Warner. European regulators said they would keep an eye on the market and would "carefully scrutinise" any further consolidation. ®

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