Glastonbury firm's losses soar despite success of festivals

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The Independent Culture

This year's Glastonbury festival may have been the best in its 33-year-history, but Mean Fiddler, the company behind the three-day-event, has sunk further into the red. The company, which also organises tours for musicians including Justin Timberlake, announced a pre-tax loss of £8.3m for 2002. Last year the deficit was £1.6m.

It blamed the losses on dismal trade at its bars and restaurants as well as at its AM radio station, loss-making assets which are being sold off. While the company does not strip out the performance of individual events, Glastonbury and the other festivals it organises, including Reading and Leeds, continue to make money. Mean Fiddler owns 40 per cent of the Glastonbury music festival business and the balance is owned by Michael Eavis, the farmer who founded the festival in 1970.

On Sunday night, as this year's event drew to a close after performances from Moby and Macy Gray, Mr Eavis said: "I think we have finally got it right." All 115,000 festival tickets were sold in 24 hours. But the success of the festival was not enough to transform the fortunes of Mean Fiddler. It blamed its £8.3m loss on exceptional items including goodwill amortisation - write-downs on the book value of acquisitions.

But even stripping out those charges, the company still made a £1.8m loss. "Mean Fiddler has faced a difficult trading environment," it said. "The company has acted quickly to dispose of those loss-making businesses that cannot be returned to profitability quickly and are considered as being non-core."

Its bars and restaurants which made a loss of £179,000 last year, are going to to Lynnet Leisure for £2.3m. It has also agreed to sell its AM radio station, which made a £119,000 loss last year, to Sunrise Radio for £1.5m. That will leave it to focus on three main areas - festivals, live venues such as the Astoria in London and touring.

Tickets for Justin Timberlake's concerts in December sold out within three hours of going on sale and weekend tickets for the Reading music festival sold out two weeks after going on sale.

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