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UK Antitrust Body Warns Against Ticketmaster-Live Nation Merger

The proposed merger of Ticketmaster and concert promoter Live Nation (NYSE: LYV) would hurt competition in the live ticket market in the UK and lead to high prices for fans, according to the country’s Competition Commission.

In a provisional ruling (its views will be updated in a final report), the commission says the deal would stop German-owned CTS Eventim, the world’s second largest ticket group, entering the UK market. Live Nation already uses Ticketmaster as its online ticket sales partner but — before the merger was proposed — Live Nation had agreed to an exclusive UK ticket deal with CTS, which would begin in December. If the merger goes ahead, CTS would be shut out of the UK market, meaning fans can expect “higher net prices and/or lower service quality and/or less innovation”, according to the commission. Release and inquiry summary.

The commission recommends three solutions: stopping the deal entirely; forcing Live Nation and Ticketmaster to sell their UK assets or to allow the merger but make Live Nation use CTS or another third party ticket seller in the UK. The commission is consulting with the US Department of Justice, which is preparing its own verdict.

Live Nation and Ticketmaster said in a joint statement (via Bloomberg): “Both our companies are committed to this merger and look forward to addressing any and all issues that the commission deems necessary.”