LN Loses $338 Mil in 4Q

Live Nation Inc., the concert promoter planning to merge with Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc., said Monday it posted a loss of $338 million in the fourth quarter, driven by large impairment charges.

The loss of $4.33 per share was much larger than the loss of 25 cents per share in the same quarter a year earlier.

Goodwill impairment charges amounted to a write-down of $270 million, and were in part caused by the company’s falling share price. Goodwill refers to certain intangible assets on a company’s balance sheet.

Without the charges, losses in the latest quarter would have totaled $67.6 million, or 89 cents per share, according to Live Nation Chief Financial Officer Kathy Willard.

Revenue slipped less than 1 percent percent to $916 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a smaller fourth-quarter loss of 22 cents per share on revenue of $1 billion.

Live Nation’s shares fell 34 cents, or 9.7 percent, to close at $3.17 before the earnings were announced.

Chief Executive Michael Rapino said that despite a grilling by lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and House last week over antitrust concerns, he remained confident the merger with Ticketmaster would go through. The companies predicted the deal would close in the second half of 2009.

The lawmakers had raised concerns that the merged entity would control too much of the concert ticket market, while independent promoters worried they’d be squeezed out and have their sales data compromised.

Fans also protested recently about being redirected to a subsidiary of Ticketmaster for Bruce Springsteen concert tickets that were selling at a premium, when face-value tickets were still available.

Rapino said Ticketmaster has always born the brunt of frustration by fans unable to find tickets to popular concerts.

“Nothing happened in the last three weeks that we wouldn’t have predicted was going to happen in terms of the press,” Rapino said. “Ticketmaster is not going to win a lot of (the) popular vote right now.”

Attendance at Live Nation concerts in the fourth quarter grew 14 percent to 13.4 million from a year ago, but revenue per fan dropped 13 percent to $66.49 from $76.54.

Sponsorship revenue grew 14 percent to $33.9 million despite the number of sponsors falling 9 percent to 840 from 927.

For the full year, revenue grew 11 percent to $4.17 billion from $3.76 billion in 2007. Losses widened to $231.8 million, or $3.04 per share, from $11.9 million, 17 cents per share, a year ago.