Warner Music IPO imminent; the end of the LP, wonders Wall Street?

One of four remaining majors seeks to recover its $2.6 billion investment in music, but digital is the big question
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Warner Music Group's IPO is viewed as a way for the group of investors, led by former Universal/Vivendi chief Edgar Bronfman, to begin to recoup on their $2.6 billion purchase of the company in 2004. The IPO is estimated to be able to raise about $750 million, much of which will be returned to investors. The move is timed when several Warner artists, including Madonna, Green Day and Linkin Park, show increased sales and when the company is seeing a profitability spurt after cutting its work force by 28 percent last year. Warner posted a fourth-quarter profit of $36 million, helped by cost-cutting; however, its revenue fell 7.6 percent to $1.09 billion from $1.18 billion a year earlier. One financial analyst commented in a Reuters report that, "This is consistent with our belief that digital [downloads] will accelerate unbundling of the album format and have a negative impact short-term on [music] sales." The analyst sees the record industry struggling for the next two to three years amid continued online piracy, pricing pressure and competition from video games and DVDs. The music industry saw a 1.4 percent U.S. sales gain in 2004 after several years of declines. Sales this year are down nearly 7 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

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