Warner Music Group is reportedly preparing to purchase a minority stake in Rotana Music, a record label owned by billionaire Saudi businessman Al-Waleed bin Talal.
Outlets including The Wall Street Journal have reported on Warner Music Group’s possible purchase of an undefined minority stake in Rotana Music/Rotana Records — though at the time of this piece’s publishing, neither the Big Three label nor the Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal-owned music company had publicly addressed the matter. WMG, which participated in Roblox’s $520 million raise earlier this month, would reportedly front somewhere around $200 million for the Rotana Records interest.
Al-Waleed bin Talal owns the vast majority of Riyadh-headquartered Kingdom Holding Company, which, aside from possessing the entirety of Rotana Group, owns a substantial piece of ride-sharing company Lyft as well as Canada’s Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. Moreover, the overarching Rotana Group encompasses the Arab World’s largest record label, Rotana Records, a Rotana Radio division, several Rotana television stations, and even a line of Rotana Café locations, at which signed artists occasionally promote new releases.
The Warner Music-Rotana transaction could close as early as this week, per the WSJ, but the involved companies haven’t yet finalized the deal’s terms.
The possible investment represents just the latest in a long line of music-industry moves to establish footholds in quick-developing – and highly lucrative – markets. To be sure, WMG in April of 2020 made a major investment in Africori, sub-Saharan Africa’s largest digital music platform – the same month in which Apple Music expanded into 52 additional nations, including Cameroon and Morocco.
Warner Music then supplemented its Africori investment in December with a Warner Chappell sub-publishing deal, aside from opening offices in India, Vietnam, and Turkey last year.
Kicking off 2021, Anghami, the leading music streaming platform in the Middle East and Africa, received a major investment from Dubai-based Shuaa Capital. Sony Music continued its push into Africa with a StarNews Mobile partnership, centering specifically on promoting Ivory Coast-based artists, while Universal Music bolstered its presence in Africa with three executive appointments. In late May of 2020, one month before opening offices in Casablanca and Tel Aviv, UMG officially launched Def Jam Africa.
Lastly, evidence suggests that Saudi Arabia is preparing to broaden its entertainment sphere – and particularly its live-music space – once the pandemic is in the rearview. The Middle Eastern nation purchased a half-billion-dollar stake in Live Nation last April, and it was rumored shortly thereafter that the Saudi government would make a play for Warner Music. Thus far, however, this buyout hasn’t come to fruition.