Home Consumer Tencent expands global ambitions and buys a stake in the Universal Music Group

Tencent expands global ambitions and buys a stake in the Universal Music Group

by Tom Pattinson
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Universal Music Group

The Universal Music Group (UMG) sold 10 percent of the company to Chinese tech giant Tencent in late December, 2019. Thought to be worth in the region of US $3.3 billion, the deal allows Tencent to increase its stake to 20 percent at the same price by January 2021 if it chooses to,  whilst allowing Universal to expand its presence in China, and increasing Tencent’s global ambitions.

Vivendi – the parent group that owns Universal – said in a statement: “Vivendi is very happy with the arrival of Tencent and its co-investors. […] They will enable UMG to further develop in the Asian market.”

For the June 2019 quarter, Tencent had over 650 million monthly active users and 31 million paying subscribers across its QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo apps

Universal holds the back catalogue of artists including The Beatles, Rihanna, Queen, Coldplay, Metallica and Taylor Swift.

Sir Lucian Grainge, the chairman and chief executive of UMG, emailed staff to reassure them that the deal would not result in Tencent exerting any influence over the day-to-day running of the music company.

Recent years have seen a music revival thanks to the streaming revolution. Led by services that include Apple, Spotify, Amazon and Deezer, music revenues have been growing at their fastest rate in more than 20 years.

Tencent already holds 7.5 percent of streaming service Spotify and holds distribution agreements with Sony Warner Music Group and YG Entertainment.

The exclusive licensing deals Tencent Music has with international record labels have led to scrutiny from China’s anti-trust law, as the largest three global record labels have all sold them exclusive rights to much of their catalogue. This means other companies in China then have to sublicense music from Tencent Music, often at rates significantly higher than elsewhere in the world.

For the June 2019 quarter, Tencent had over 650 million monthly active users and 31 million paying subscribers across its QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo apps. Revenue from online music services rose 20 percent to RMB 1.56 billion (US$ 218 million) in the period, according to Bloomberg.

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