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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
EMI shares hit by gloomy outlook
Robbie Williams
Can Robbie save EMI?
Shares in EMI, the world's third biggest music company, have tumbled nearly 10% after it warned that sales were likely to continue falling this year.

The fall came despite a rise in profits after a major cost-cutting programme at the group enabled it to offset a fall in music sales.

Total sales at the EMI group - whose artists include Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Coldplay and Radiohead - fell 11% to 2.2bn, with sales of recorded music dropping by a worse-than-expected 12.6%.

But the company was able to report a rise in adjusted pre-tax profits excluding one-off items to 177.3m ($290.2m), from 153.3m last year.

Including one-off items, such as the sale of its stake in the HMV music stores, pre-tax profits were 319.3m.

"We had piracy in all its forms, which was probably the biggest single contributor to market decline," said chairman Eric Nicoli.

And EMI said it expected recorded music sales would fall by a further 5-8% this year as the illegal copying of music spreads.

EMI shares finished the day down 13 pence, or 9.6%, at 122p.

Best sellers

As well as piracy, the music industry as whole has been hit by the economic slowdown and competition from other leisure goods such as video games.

Norah Jones with her Grammy awards
Norah Jones' album has been a highlight for EMI
EMI has taken drastic action to cope with the downturn, cutting 1,900 jobs and dropping 400 acts from its roster last year.

There was some glimmer of light from the US, where EMI made a profit after five years of losses.

Best performing albums included the debut album from Norah Jones 'Come Away With Me' which has now sold 13 million copies.

Coldplay's album 'A Rush of Blood to the Head' sold six million, while a Rolling Stones greatest hits album sold five million copies.

Robbie to the rescue?

One of EMI's biggest deals last year was the re-signing of Robbie Williams.

But while his last album Escapology has sold six million copies outside the US, only 150,000 copies have been shipped to the US market.

EMI said it was confident he would break the crucial US market in the long run.

"It's about slowly moving Robbie into the consciousness of the American people," said chief financial officer Roger Faxon.

"While Robbie is a superstar in the rest of the world, he's not that in America, but we expect in due course that he will be."

Merger speculation

There has been persistent speculation about EMI's future, and it has been linked with possible mergers with Warner Music and Bertlesmann's BMG.

But recent reports have suggesting that Time Warner and BMG are mulling a merger themselves, raising fears that EMI could be left behind.

Mr Nicoli refused to be drawn on the issue.

"We think we will make progress with or without participation in industry consolidation," he said.

"Beyond that I have no intention of fuelling speculation."

But the lack of comment failed to quell analysts' concerns.

"If EMI had said it wanted to be part of the last round of consolidation and didn't want to miss out on critical mass and cost savings, we could have seen its shares up by an equal amount," said Simon Baker, analyst at SG Securities.




SEE ALSO:
Record industry warns 'online pirates'
30 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
EMI backs digital downloads
24 Apr 03  |  Technology
EMI warns over music sales
19 Nov 02  |  Business
Robbie signs '80m' deal
02 Oct 02  |  Entertainment


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