UK competition regulator provisionally approves Live Nation’s MCD deal

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The UK competition regulator has provisionally concluded that the acquisition of Irish concert promoter MCD by Live Nation subsidiary LN-Gaiety Holdings Limited does not raise any competition law concerns. Although it is now inviting input from other stakeholders before making a final ruling on the matter.

Live Nation’s purchase of MCD is slightly confusing because LN-Gaiety Holdings is the live giant’s joint venture with the Irish company Gaiety, which is best known for, well, owning MCD Productions. Gaiety and its boss Denis Desmond have been in business with Live Nation for years, but MCD was never part of that alliance.

After Live Nation and Desmond announced plans to bring MCD into the JV last year competition regulators in both Ireland and the UK announced that they would investigate the deal. The former then approved the transaction in July after Live Nation and MCD agreed to make a number of legally binding commitments to allay competition concerns.

The same week the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority said it also had concerns about the deal, mainly on the basis that Live Nation’s Ticketmaster is the leading ticket seller in Northern Ireland, where MCD also promotes shows. The CMA mused that “as Live Nation already owns Ticketmaster, the CMA is concerned that if it were to acquire MCD, it may be able to stop rival promoters selling tickets through that platform post-merger”.

It was an interesting concern because, usually when Live Nation is buying up yet more venues, promoters and artist management outfits, the concern is that it might use that market dominance to pressure or force more people into using Ticketmaster. Not stop them.

This is possibly why, having undertaken a more in-depth investigation since July, the CMA has now concluded that the MCD purchase doesn’t raise competition concerns because “Live Nation would not be expected to have the incentive to harm rival music promoters by making it harder for them to sell tickets through Ticketmaster”.

However, the CMA investigation process is not fully compete. It said yesterday that it is now “asking for views on these provisional findings by 28 Nov and will assess all evidence provided before making a final decision”. The deadline for that decision is 8 Jan.

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