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LiveMaster merger ruling could be published next week

By | Published on Wednesday 28 April 2010

The UK’s Competition Commission could rule on the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger as soon as next week, according to a Bloomberg report.

As you might remember, the Commission was one of a number competition regulators around the world to investigate the merger of tour and venues company Live Nation with ticketing and artist management giant Ticketmaster. They approved the merger deal just before Christmas, but an appeal hearing in February ordered the Commission to reconsider.

Objections to the deal in the UK were led by German ticketing firm CTS Eventim, one of Ticketmaster’s main competitors on a global level, but who have previously had a very low profile in the UK. Prior to merging with Ticketmaster, Live Nation, a former client of the ticketing giant, was in the process of setting up its own ticket selling division. Outside of the US that in-house ticketing operation would essentially be outsourced to CTS, who would enter the UK market as part of that deal.

Although Live Nation remain contractually obliged to use some of CTS’s services and software, obviously the long term potential of the Live Nation/CTS partnership has been hindered somewhat by the former becoming joined up with the latter’s main competitor. CTS said that this would stop them from entering the UK market in any aggressive way, and in doing so would reduce competition in the market, to the detriment of consumer choice.

The Commission initially said CTS had presented a compelling argument, but then gave the merger approval anyway. It remains to be seen whether that approval is forthcoming again this time round, now the Commission has been ordered to review everything for a second time.

Of course, while the UK Commission has been reviewing its original decision, the all important US competition regulator has given the merger the go ahead. Given both Live Nation and Ticketmaster are American companies, they have therefore merged. Therefore if the UK authorities were to actually block the merger, that would present an interesting challenge for the British operations of the combined company.

Few think the Commission will actually block the merger. Their original OK-ing of the deal was based on Live Nation sticking to its contractual obligations to CTS, and to its commitment to sell a certain portion of tickets to Live Nation events and venues via third party ticketing agencies. Whether the second ruling will make any more demands on the merged Live Master in a bid to further placate CTS remains to be seen.