UK Sets Merger Decision Deadline

The U.K.’s Competition Commission will give its ruling on the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger by May 11, having had its decision to approve the deal knocked back on appeal.

The British monopolies authority has given interested parties until March 5 to make further submissions, saying the original decision to allow the merger will now be treated as “further provisional findings.”

The CC’s also saying it’s now looking at “a completed merger, rather than an anticipated merger,” referring to the U.S. Department Of Justice’s conditional approval of the deal.

The CC ruling published a couple of days before Christmas was based on the premise that the merger wouldn’t result “in a substantial lessening of competition in the U.K. market,” a judgment successfully overturned by German ticket-selling giant CTS Eventim.

The Bremen-based company said the regulator had erred in its assessment of the effect the merger would have on the market. It also said it wasn’t given sufficient chance to present a cogent argument against the merger.

More controversially, Eventim claimed the CC had failed to consider the likelihood and consequences of Live Nation breaching the contract it signed with the German company at the end of 2007.

Last March LN chief Michael Rapino reiterated that his company would honour that deal, apparently to Eventim chief exec Klaus-Peter Schulenberg’s satisfaction. Raising doubts about it now will likely do little to improve what’s becoming a strained relationship between the two companies.

Some London-based LN execs are becoming frustrated about how long it’s taking to get Eventim’s ticket system up and running in the U.K., a platform that should have launched Jan. 1.

In the third week of February – when Kings Of Leon went on sale – every ticket agent managed to handle the demand except the German system. It creaked and worked sporadically throughout the first morning.

It may just be something that got lost in translation but visitors to Holiday On Ice at Cardiff International Arena complained that the confirmation page they received from Eventim said the arena “reserves the right to refuse entry to unkempt and smelly people.”

It was allegedly sent out with 500 ticket confirmations and an event programmer at Eventim’s London office is reported to have been sacked.

At press time it wasn’t possible to get comment from Eventim, Live Nation or Ticketmaster, although both the U.S. companies have said the Germans’ objections to the deal are without merit.

The appeals tribunal has recently become more vigorous in its analysis of CC decisions, and last year sent back cases involving large U.K. companies including Tesco Plc, Barclays Plc and the British Airport Authority.