LN-Ticketmaster Deadline

Interested parties have until Oct. 29 to react to the U.K. competition regulator’s decision to provisionally rule against the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger. A final decision is expected by the end of November.

The Competition Commission says it will consider possible remedies and “continue to consult with the U.S. authorities.”

That comment has led to U.K. media pointing out that the British authorities are moving more quickly through the review process and speculating whether the two are cooperating to make it easier for the U.S. authorities to follow suit.

U.S. antitrust experts say the ruling makes it more likely that the U.K. and U.S. authorities will coordinate a response.

There’s no comment from Live Nation’s London office beyond the joint statement issued with Ticketmaster Oct, 9.

“Live Nation and Ticketmaster respect the Competition Commission for its analysis of the merger and have cooperated, and will continue to cooperate, fully during this ongoing process,” it said. “Both our companies are committed to this merger and look forward to addressing any and all issues that the commission deems necessary.”

Given that the CC has also said it will “consider possible remedies,” Live Nation U.K. president Paul Latham looks to be in a similar situation to the one he faced when LN and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments were trying to buy into Academy Music Group.

At that time, the CC settled for the new owners jettisoning a couple of major London concert venues – Hammersmith Apollo and The Forum.

Separate reports in the Daily Mail say The Ambassadors Theatre Group, whose Comedy Theatre in London will host Keira Knightley’s West End debut in Moliere’s The Misanthrope, is set to buy more than a dozen venues from LN for up to £100 million ($158 million).

But that’s probably not the sort of remedy the U.K. authority (and possibly the U.S. one) has in mind.

The CC report suggests its main concern is that the merger could “severely inhibit the entry of a major new competitor, CTS Eventim, into the U.K. ticketing market.”

Eventim – arguably the biggest operator on the European mainland – already has a deal to provide ticketing services for Live Nation’s music events in Britain.

The German company also enables LN to run its own ticketing platform in the U.S., where LN competed with Ticketmaster after it chose not to renew its contract with TM.

The commission appears to feel that – if the merger were to proceed – LN would have an incentive to minimize the number of tickets it gave CTS to sell.

If the U.K. merger is contingent on the German company not being blocked out of the market, the CC may seek a way to smooth its entrance, such as requiring the merged LN-Ticketmaster to supply Eventim with a guaranteed number of tickets for its shows.