Go-ahead for Ticketmaster and Live Nation tie-up

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The Independent Online

The mega-merger of ticketing giant Ticketmaster with the world's largest concert promoter, Live Nation, was given the all-clear by UK regulators today.

The decision reverses the Competition Commission's provisional findings that the tie-up could lead to higher prices and lower quality of service. It said its change of heart followed "significant new evidence and arguments".

Ticketmaster and Live Nation - whose acts include Madonna, Coldplay and U2 - announced the planned merger in February, sparking competition reviews in a number of countries, including the UK and the United States.

Chris Edmonds, managing director of Ticketmaster UK, described today's clearance as an important milestone and said it brought the companies a step closer to "creating a new kind of live entertainment business".

The Competition Commission's inquiry focused on concerns that a deal would stop the world's second largest ticketing firm, CTS Eventim, from gaining a foothold in the UK market.

Live Nation signed an agreement with Eventim for ticketing of its live music shows and venues in the UK shortly before the merger with Ticketmaster was announced.

Commission deputy chairman Christopher Clarke said: "We concluded that the extent of Eventim's success in the UK will be determined principally by its own efforts and abilities, and will not be affected significantly by the merger."

The Commission said it found that the merger would make little difference to the prospects of Eventim's success in the UK.

It added that the move had little scope to affect Eventim as it would continue to receive a fee for every Live Nation ticket sold and Live Nation would be obliged to allocate a minimum number of tickets to Eventim.

The inquiry also looked at how the combination of Ticketmaster and Live Nation might affect other ticketing agents, as well as the promoters and venues which put on and host live music events.

Mr Clarke said: "We examined how the merged entity might attempt to shut out competitors; for example, by Live Nation restricting the availability of tickets for its events to other ticket agents or by Ticketmaster refusing to sell tickets for other promoters and venue operators.

"However, we found that, in most of these cases, the merged entity would suffer significant and immediate losses, with very uncertain prospects for long-term gain."

Mr Clarke said it was "unusual but not unique" for the Commission to differ from its provisional findings.

He added: "The very purpose of publishing our provisional conclusions is to provide all parties with the opportunity to review them and to put forward new evidence or arguments.

"In this case, when we considered the totality of the evidence, arguments and analysis, we reached the conclusion that the merger will not result in a substantial lessening of competition in the market for live music ticket retailing or in any other market in the UK, including live music promotion and live music venues.

Clearance of the proposed merger in the UK follows regulatory approval in Norway and Turkey. Separate regulatory reviews are continuing in the US and Canada.

Both Ticketmaster and Live Nation are based in the US, so the Competition Commission could not act to stop the merger. However, it may have been able to recommend that they sell off one of their UK businesses.

Paul Latham, head of UK operations for Live Nation said: "During the course of this merger process, we have listened to our fans, artists and other parties.

"And we have reassured them that by combining the resources of these two companies, we will deliver a better live music experience for the entire sector."