Live Nation Narrows 1Q Loss

Live Nation had more to announce May 8th than the first tour under its 360 deal with Madonna. There was also a little matter of first quarter financials to report.

While the company showed an adjusted operating net loss of $35.4 million on the first quarter of 2008, or 47 cents per share, it lost less than the $45 million posted for the same period last year. However, the loss was wider than the 42 cents predicted by analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial.

Comprehensive loss for the period narrowed to $24.9 million from $45.5 million in 1Q 2007.

Key drivers in the first quarter included increased ticket sales and the acquisition of House of Blues Canada. In Europe, LN acquired the management rights to Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam as well as a more than 50 percent stake of London-based venue operator Academy Music Group.

Investment in Global Artists infrastructure cost LN some $3.2 million, and another $3.9 million was invested in building ticketing and digital operations.

Considering the economic slowdown of the last several months, the numbers were cause for optimism from Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino and CFO Kathy Willard.

"The first quarter represented a solid start to what we believe will be a very healthy year for concerts globally," Rapino said in a statement. "Our ticket sales to date remain strong despite the slowdown in the economy."

Rapino said during a conference call that Live Nation continues to move forward on its long-term strategic plan and core businesses, and the short term losses from investment and acquisitions will build long-term gains.

"We are pleased with our financial results which are in line with our plan in what is seasonally a slow quarter for us," Live Nation CFO Kathy Willard said. "Due to earlier timing of ticket sales and a continued control over maintenance-related capital expenditures, our cash balances and free cash flow have improved during the quarter as well."

Live Nation reported total revenues of $636.5 million, up from $520.3 million from a year ago, for growth of 22 percent. North American Music increased to $300.1 million from $248.3 million.

The company also reported the completion of the divestiture of its North American theatrical business for gross sales proceeds of $90.4 million. It spent $16.9 million on revenue generating projects including the renovation of The Point in Ireland and the AMG expansion in Sheffield, England.