Europe Examines Merger

It may take a couple of weeks before the stock markets settle on their reaction to the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger, but most of the European live music biz looks to have accepted the deal as a fait-accompli.

Various U.K.-based industry organisations have called for regulators to carefully scrutinize the deal, but others appear to be shrugging their shoulders and wondering why news of huge partnerships is still greeted with surprise.

“I expect there will be a lot of opposition to it founded on fear that it will create a monopolistic and overly powerful beast, but it’s a pretty logical move for both parties – both of them have well defined, vertically integrated propositions which sit well together,” said Blink TV chief exec Bill Lord, whose company supplies both screens and content for stadium and arena shows worldwide.

He said the merger may marginalise certain companies but said that’s the direction the global live music industry is heading.

In Germany, where more than a half-dozen of the top promoters are part-owned by German ticketing giant CTS Eventim, including Marek Lieberberg, whose company is also part-owned by Live Nation, investors appear nervous about where the deal will lead.

Live Nation chief Michael Rapino doesn’t seem to have convinced the money men in Frankfurt with his comment that the new company is “looking to honour and work through our CTS relationship,” a 10-year deal between LN and the German ticketing giant.

Rapino made his comments Feb. 10 during the new company’s conference call for investors but didn’t fully respond to a question of whether the company would use the Eventim platform or Ticketmaster’s. Both have ticket-selling platforms that are close to pan-European.

“Live Nation Entertainment will be better positioned to deliver technological advances such as paperless ticketing as well as interactive seat access and mobile delivery,” was how the company explained the subject in a statement announcing the merger. “The combination will enable increased R&D investment and the sort of technology advances that improve the ticketing experience for consumers and deliver best-in-class solutions to artists, other content owners and venues.”

The Frankfurt exchange may be wary of where the Munich-based company will stand when Live Nation Entertainment sets about generating the $40 million of operating synergies it hopes to get from combining LN and TM’s ticketing, marketing, data centers and back-office functions. It wasn’t possible to get comment from Eventim at press time.

The American market didn’t appear too thrilled with the news of the deal. On a bad day for the DOW, both Live Nation and Ticketmaster stocks took a tumble. But Eventim’s Frankfurter Wertpapierbörse (FWB) price has been on the slide for a week.

When the Wall Street Journal first reported the rumours of a proposed merger between LN and TM, Eventim’s price fell by more than 20 percent to euro 21. The confirmation of the deal pushed it further down, to close at euro 19.2 Feb. 11. Earlier in the day it fell to euro 18.6. The 52-week high is euro 31.

“Overall, a merger of those two world market leaders in the area of concert events, including the ticketing business, would significantly shift the competitive relation in the world market, with negative effects on CTS as a tendency,” DZ Bank said in a note to investors.

The U.K.-based secondary ticket sellers have mixed reactions to the birth of Live Nation Entertainment.

“I cannot see how this is good for consumers,” Seatwave chief exec Joe Cohen told Financial Times. “I think 12 months from now we’ll be looking at higher prices.”

Viagogo chief exec Eric Baker, whose company has just re-signed as “official ticket reseller” for the second leg of Madonna’s LN-promoted Sticky & Sweet tour, added, “With the advent of the Internet and the emergence of new business lines such as fan club and secondary ticketing, the old primary ticketing model has had to reinvent itself.

“Ticketmaster’s October merger with Irving Azoff’s Front Line artist management company was the first step in that [reinvention] process. Today’s announced merger with Live Nation is the next step,” Baker said.

The FT predicts the deal will “face challenges from artists, regulators and concert venue owners.”