Coldplay did EMI shareholders an unintended favour yesterday after the music company reported improved revenues and profits at its recorded music division.
EMI issued a profit warning in February, and saw £300m wiped off its market value, after Coldplay delayed completion of its third album, X&Y. Chris Martin, lead singer of the group, later dismissed his paymasters' troubles, describing shareholders as "the greatest evil in this modern world".
EMI made shareholders happier yesterday with a trading statement delivered at its annual meeting. It confirmed that 6 million units of X&Y had been shipped since its release last month.The second album by Gorillaz, whose delayed release also contributed to the February warning, also boosted revenues by selling 2 million units. EMI said revenues and profits had improved at its recorded music arm and at its industry-leading music publishing unit but did not release figures.
Coldplay has gone from playing small gigs in Camden to becoming a major earner for the world's third-largest music company in five years. The band's second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, sold 9 million copies and accounted for up to 3% of EMI's sales in 2002, according to analysts.
Elsewhere in the statement, EMI said digital revenues in the first quarter of its financial year represented 4.8% of total turnover, up from 3.5% in the previous quarter. It added that first-quarter digital sales were more than double those in the same period last year.
Eric Nicoli, EMI's chairman, said: "We expect consumer uptake of legitimate digital music to be the key industry growth driver in the coming years."
Shares in EMI rose 1% to 258p yesterday. Anthony de Larrinaga, an analyst at SG Securities, said improving dig ital sales were the most positive development but there was no guarantee that growth in online turnover would continue at the same rate.
"As a percentage of overall sales, it is very impressive. But it does not tell us the run-rate for the full year, so I would be cautious on drawing too many conclusions," he said.
EMI's critical quarter is Christmas, when the success of its release schedule will determine whether it hits full-year numbers. It is pinning its hopes on a new album from Robbie Williams, with the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney also expected to release albums with EMI in the next year.
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