Live Nation rounds on watchdog over merger

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The Independent Online

The ticketing agencies Live Nation and Ticketmaster have hit back at the City's takeover watchdog, claiming the decision to block their proposed merger on anti-competitive grounds was undermined by "key legal flaws".

The Competition Commission yesterday published responses to its provisional ruling in October. These included Live Nation and Ticketmaster's submissions arguing that the $2.5bn merger would not result in a substantial fall in competition. The commission fears Live Nation's tie-up with Ticketmaster would effectively kill the ticket distribution deal it signed with CTS Eventim, and would cause the German company to back out of plans to enter the UK market.

These conclusions drove the regulator to consult on remedies, which could compel one of the companies involved to divest its UK business. Ticketmaster said in its response that selling off its UK business meant the deal would lose "some, or all, of the benefits".

Live Nation criticised the "many factual errors and serious technical flaws" in the findings. The submission said there were two "fundamental flaws" in the legal analysis that were "fatal to its provisional conclusions, regardless of how those facts are interpreted".

Live Nation complained that its deal would not give the merged group market share and would not prevent CTS signing up with one of its rivals. That none of the rivals had been willing to give CTS the deal it needed, Live Nation said, "reflects the normal competitive process, not foreclosure from that process".

Live Nation added that the commission had also misinterpreted the meaning of "substantial lessening of competition". The regulator found that neither company had market dominance, or would gain such dominance through the merger.