Watchdog U-turn paves way for Ticketmaster mega-deal

Competition Commission rules that Live Nation merger will not harm rivals after all

The UK merger watchdog has executed a startling U-turn and dropped its opposition to the live entertainment "mega-merger" between Live Nation and Ticketmaster, saying "significant new evidence" had emerged.

The Competition Commission yesterday announced in a statement that it had decided to clear the proposed $2.5bn (£1.6bn) merger in the UK, concluding it would "not result in a substantial lessening of competition".

This marks a complete reversal of its preliminary findings in October, when it blocked the deal and warned that one of the companies may have to offload their UK business. Christopher Clarke, the Competition Commission's deputy chairman, said: "Our decision today differs from our provisional findings in October, which is unusual but not unique. 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."

A spokesman for the regulator added: "We have had about 70 mergers investigations since the Enterprise Act in 2002, and this will be the fourth one to be reversed. Each time it has been down to significant new evidence."

Two months earlier, the regulator feared the deal would drive up ticket prices and block new entrants into the market. Yet it received "significant new evidence and arguments", not only from the companies merging but from other industry participants, including CTS Eventim, the company that could have derailed the deal. A source close to the process said: "The commission was a bit surprised by the submissions received after the ruling, which indicated the market was more diverse than they had thought," before adding: "This is the most significant market to receive clearance for the deal to date."

Ticketmaster dominates the global ticketing industry, while Live Nation is the world's largest concert promoter and has contracted stars including Madonna and Jay-Z. While the companies are based in the US, they both have significant operations in Britain, and the Office of Fair Trading turned the investigation over to the Competition Commission in June.

The two companies welcomed the decision yesterday. Chris Edmonds, managing director of Ticketmaster UK, said it was "an important milestone in the regulatory review process, and brings the companies a step closer to creating a new kind of live entertainment business."

The commission's concerns focused on whether the deal would lead to Ticketmaster's largest global competitor, CTS Eventim, cancelling plans to enter the UK market. Before the mega-merger was announced, CTS had signed an agreement to provide Live Nation with ticketing software and services and would be handed a proportion of Live Nation venue tickets to sell.

The commission now believes the merger "will make little difference to the prospects of Eventim's success in the UK". It added the merger would not have affected Eventim's entry into the UK as Live Nation had never intended to support the company beyond its existing obligations anyway.

The regulator also concluded that where the merged group could use its position to harm competitors "it would not have the financial incentive to do so," adding it would be hit by "significant short-term losses in pursuit of very uncertain long-term gains". The companies argued the rise of direct ticket sales, especially over the internet, and a robust secondary market, meant competition wasn't threatened.

The companies responded angrily to the initial ruling earlier this year, claiming the commission's decision was undermined by "key legal flaws" and "factual errors".

Competition authorities across 20 countries have investigated the deal, although the most crucial to completing the merger is the inquiry run by the Department of Justice in the US, which is ongoing. The deal has proved controversial in the US and artists including Bruce Springsteen have been vocal in their opposition.

This comes a day after the Commission Appeal Tribunal threw the Competition Commission's judgement into BAA into doubt, citing one member of the panel's "apparent bias".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003