EU Promises Apple and Beats Decision By July 30
Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) $3 billion deal to buy Beats Electronics is expected to go forward without a hitch — except that the company needs regulatory approval to proceed with it. The two companies need the approval of both their native United States regulators and European Union regulators. American regulators have yet to set a date for their decision, but the EU said on Thursday that the two companies would have its decision by July 30. It is making both companies wait a month for the decision.
Under the terms of the deal, Apple pays $3 billion total: about $2.5 billion for Beats Electronics, the headphone and audio equipment end of the business. The remaining $500 million is for streaming music service Beats Music. Apple is also getting new employees from the deal. Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will join Apple as executives.
The reason why the regulatory approvals are needed is due to antitrust laws in the United States, the European Union, and other regions. For the merger to continue, both need to give their OK. For many companies, this is more a formality than anything. American approval requires the go-ahead from two federal agencies, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. The European Union gives a single approval from the European Commission. In both cases, regulators investigate if the merger is good for business competition.
For Apple, it is the company’s largest deal to date. It already has a music business in the form of iTunes, and it sells some audio equipment already. The deal with Beats Electronics has a little potential to be seen as anticompetitive, which could result in a delay or lack of approval. Considering that iTunes is one of the largest online music sellers and the third most popular option for streaming radio, it could raise a few regulators’ eyebrows. However, it is more likely that the deal will go forward without a fuss.
Online music and audio equipment are both fairly competitive areas. Apple and Beats Electronics are hardly the only companies in these fields. Streaming music is a growing field, meaning that competition in the field is up, too. ITunes Radio may be bigger than Spotify, but it’s no Pandora in size. Beats Music is tiny, with about 250,000 listeners. Several companies make audio equipment. If the European Union denies the claim, it can make the two companies make concessions or launch a more extensive investigation of the deal.
If American and other regulators approve the deal around the same time as their EU counterparts, Apple may be able to complete the deal by the end of its fiscal year in late September.