The Main Event

February 10, 2009

OLYMPICS/TOUTSTicketmaster and Live Nation are reported to have approved a merger plan, but regulators may yet steal the show. The Wall Street Journal reports Ticketmaster approved the deal on Sunday and Live Nation followed suit on Monday after resolving a handful of accounting issues, described as minor.

Ticketmaster dominates the seat-selling business and has a big artist-management division. Live Nation brings a big network of concert venues, promoters and a promotional prowess in everything from T-shirts to fan clubs.

Obama administration antitrust folks just sitting down at their desks will be taking a long hard look at this deal, which would create the world’s largest concert promoter with an estimated market value of $700 million. Obama has promised to toughen up antitrust enforcement, and the enfeebled music industry is likely to mewl foul.

They won’t need a lot of help to cast this deal in a dirty light. Ticketmaster has been doing plenty of damage to itself in the public arena recently.
Yesterday, the company was hit with a C$500 million ($410 million) Canadian lawsuit alleging it broke the law by reselling tickets at inflated prices. The suit mirrors complaints in the United States that people trying to buy tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s current tour were redirected to Ticketmaster’s TicketsNow site, where tickets were available at much higher prices. They ticked off The Boss. That can’t be good.

Other Deals News:
* Biotechnology company Genentech urged shareholders to take no action on a hostile $42 billion bid by rival Swiss drugmaker Roche, saying its independent directors will decide formally on the surprise offer within 10 days.

* UTS Energy urged its shareholders to reject Total SA’s C$617 million ($506 million) takeover bid and it formally began wooing rival bids for its oil sands assets.

* The Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) would consider increasing its support for Dow Chemical Co’s disputed takeover of Rohm and Haas if the terms of the deal were changed to account for the downturn, the Financial Times said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

* Japan’s Toshiba said that it, Tokyo Electric Power and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation will together buy C$270 million ($221.9 million) worth of shares in Canada’s Uranium One Inc.

* British bluetooth firm CSR Plc said it had agreed to buy SiRF in a $136-million, all-share deal to bolster it in a slowing technology market.

* Canadian auto parts giant Magna International agreed to acquire the European operations of bankrupt U.S.-based rival Cadence Innovation LLC, Magna said.

* India’s No. 2 motorcycle maker, Bajaj Auto, is set to increase its stake in Austrian bike maker KTM to 30 percent, the Economic Times reported on Tuesday, citing the Indian firm’s managing director.

* Business adviser Tenon Group said it had acquired HWSEG Ltd, specialist medical accountants and tax advisers, for an undisclosed sum.

* Australian financial group Suncorp-Metway, which is raising funds to boost capital, may still sell its bank at the right price as a savage credit crisis hurts one of the nation’s lower-rated lenders.

* The Belgian government is not prepared to make further concessions to Fortis shareholders if they deliver a “no” on Wednesday to the state-led carve-up of the group, business daily De Tijd reports.

* Latin American silver and gold producer Hochschild Mining has made an all-share takeover offer for its joint venture partner Minera Andes, Hochschild said.

* JJB Sports, the struggling British sportswear retailer, said it had received a number of bids for its Fitness Clubs business and talks were continuing regarding its sale.

(PHOTO: A scalper with an Olympic ticket in Beijing, August 20, 2008. REUTERS/Alfred Cheng Jin  – Bruce Springsteen at the NFL’s Super Bowl XLIII February 1, 2009. REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

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