Monday, May 21, 2007

Shaky ground? EMI seeks sanctuary in Terra Firma

So, EMI is set to disappear from the stock market - at least for a while, until it's been eviscerated, loaded up with debt and sent back. Private Equity group Terra Firma has bid GBP3.2 million, including debt pay-off, which EMI has grabbed like a starving man offered a Ginsters Pasty. Despite a bad cheese allergy.

"Terra Firma's offer delivers cash now, without regulatory uncertainty and with the minimum of operational risk to the company," said EMI chairman John Gildersleeve.

He said the deal would enable EMI to "build on its current position as one of the world's leading music companies and accelerate the development of its digital and online strategy to fully exploit this long-term growth opportunity".

So, what companies will EMI now be sitting alongside?

Tank And Rast, the German motorway grease-and-toilet stops; here, Terra Firma has "refinanced" the company along the lines of a UK Private-Public Partnership (in other words, flogging the property and forcing the company to dribble away money in years to come to access the buildings its business relies upon.)

Odeon/UCI, bought by Terra Firma in 2004, is currently seeing unions fight plans to change the working conditions for projectionist staff, including revising down their pay and conditions and reducing overtime to just a single-time payment. Elsewhere, staff have been laid off at call centres.

East Surrey Holdings includes a company called Phoenix Natural Gas, which is the only supplier of natural gas in Northern Ireland. Terra Firma bought ESH in April 2005. In September 2005, , Phoenix put gas prices up 30%. And then another 17% in January 2006. And then another 14.5% the following September. To be fair, it did cut prices a little last month, but only by 14%. So, if you're wondering where the money to buy EMI has come from - a chunk has been provided by pensioners in Northern Ireland choosing to not freeze to death over the winter.

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