Universal Music Group Planning IPO Within Next Three Years

Jem Aswad

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Buried in Vivendi’s earnings report released today is the blockbuster news that its subsidiary Universal Music Group is planning an IPO within the next three years. Vivendi recently sold 10% of UMG to a consortium led by Tencent Holdings for $3.3  billion, a sum that values the company at a whopping $33 billion.

“Vivendi is very happy with the arrival of Tencent and its co-investors,” that segment of the announcement reads. “In addition, Vivendi’s Supervisory Board was informed of ongoing negotiations regarding the possible sale of additional minority interests, which negotiation engagement, based on a minimum valuation of €30 billion, was announced on December 31, 2019.

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“Eight banks have been mandated by Vivendi to assist it in this matter. An initial public offering is currently planned for early 2023 at the latest.”

Since it formally announced plans to sell up to 50% of UMG in 2018, Vivendi has made no secret of its plans to take advantage of music’s resurgent strength on Wall Street in recent years. It said at the time of Tencent’s investment that the company had an option to acquire another 10% by next January.

UMG, helmed by chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge (pictured above) since 2011, is by far the world’s largest music company. In August of 2017, Goldman Sachs valued UMG at $23.5 billion — $10 billion less than it was valued just 18 months later, and roughly three times what it was worth in 2013.

Since the 2011 launch of Spotify in the U.S. and the ensuing move of millions of music consumers to subscription services, music increasingly has become a bull market: Exactly one week ago, UMG competitor Warner Music Group announced that it filed for a proposed initial public offering of its common stock. WMG, which was a public company under previous owners, went private in 2011 when Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries bought the company for $3.3 billion. WMG, along with UMG and Sony Music, are the three major labels.

Music publishing has seen unprecedented values in recent years as well, with Concord purchasing Imagem for nearly $600 million in 2017, Round Hill Music acquiring Carlin for $240 million the following year and relatively new indie Songs Music Publishing going to Kobalt for a reported $150 million.

Clearly, with values of music companies skyrocketing at such a rate over the past six-odd years, owners of music companies have decided the time is ripe to go public.

The IPO news overshadowed a very strong 2019 earnings report for UMG, which saw its revenues reaching more than $7.7 billion, up 14% thanks to a 21.5% surge in streaming revenue. Recorded music revenues climbed 11.5% over last year, and the company’s publishing revenues increased 9.2%. Its merchandise and other revenues grew nearly 74% over last year, due to growing numbers in touring and direct-to-consumer sales. For the fourth quarter of 2019, the company brought in nearly $2.3 billion in revenue, up from $2.06 billion in Q4 of 2019.

 

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