The Rolling Stones have dismissed media reports that they plan to end their business relationship with EMI.

The Observer newspaper had claimed at the weekend that the veteran rockers are close to leaving EMI for concert promoters Live Nation, who recently signed deals with Madonna and Jay-Z.

However, the band's spokesman Bernard Doherty has denied plans to sever ties with EMI after 31 years.

"We are not in talks with Live Nation in connection with any record deal," he said in a statement to the Reuters news agency.

The Observer had said on Sunday that the Stones were "close to clinching a deal with Live Nation" which would see the promotion firm taking control of the band's back catalogue, worth some £3 million annually to EMI.

The report also added that Live Nation would be given control of the band's merchandising and touring rights, which could be worth around £750 million.

Having lost Radiohead and Sir Paul McCartney in 2007, losing the Rolling Stones would see EMI's fortunes turning further for the worse, a path which has seemed difficult to avoid since the label was taken over by private equity firm Terra Firma.

Some 2,000 EMI employees lost their jobs in January and only the sterling performance of Coldplay's new album Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends - which topped the charts on Sunday after only three days on release, having sold more than 300,000 copies - has steered the label in the right direction.

With U2, Madonna and Jay-Z having all signed deals with Live Nation in the past 12 months, the acquisition of the Stones would not be surprising, given the nature of the promoter's agreement with Madonna, for example.

The deal signed in October is the first to encompass all facets of the star's career, with Live Nation holding the rights to her albums, tours, merchandise, website, DVDs, sponsorship, TV shows and films.

16/06/2008 15:17:36