Deal costs lower Live Nation, Ticketmaster profits

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 09, 2009 7:38 PM

Proposed merger partners Live Nation Inc. and Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. both said Monday that their earnings were hurt by costs related to the deal, which is expected to drag into 2010 as regulators explore antitrust concerns.

The companies are awaiting a U.S. Justice Department ruling on their plan to create a concert-promoting and ticketing giant. British authorities came out against the deal last month and plan to issue a final report by Jan. 19 that could force the companies to sell divisions or make other concessions.

Live Nation said Monday that its net income fell by half to $69 million, or 78 cents per share. Better sales of concert tickets sent revenue up 14 percent to $1.81 billion.

Ticketmaster's net income increased more than a third to $13 million. Revenue rose 3 percent to $349 million.

Combined, the companies spent nearly $12 million in merger expenses in the quarter. Ticketmaster's legal fees and other deal costs cut 7 cents per share off its earnings, which came to 22 cents per share. Without the expense, its earnings would have beat analysts' average forecast of 25 cents, according to Thomson Reuters.

Live Nation, which is based in Los Angeles, would have earned 87 cents per share without merger costs, above analysts' average forecast for earnings of the 80 cents per share, on $1.62 billion in revenue.

Ticketmaster Chief Executive Irving Azoff said he is optimistic about the regulatory review, although the deal is not expected to close until the first quarter of next year. When the merger was announced in February, the companies expected to close it by the end of this year.

Azoff told analysts on a conference call that regulators are "doing a very thorough job _ they gave us more questions today. It's not a process that has defined dates and deadlines."

Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino, who will head the new company, said despite any concessions the companies might have to make, the deal would make sense.

"We're pretty confident that once the reviews are over that we'll both be able to find that happy medium to get these deals done," he told analysts on a conference call.

The companies have set a Jan. 8 shareholders meeting to vote on the plan.

Live Nation shares rose 33 cents, or 4.7 percent, to close at $7.32 before the earnings announcement Monday. In extended trading the stock dropped 1.4 percent to $7.22.

Ticketmaster, which is based in West Hollywood, closed up 65 cents, or 6.5 percent, at $10.72, before the earnings were released. In extended trading the stock lost a penny to $10.71.