Live Nation's 'Epic' 2013 Earnings Broken Down

The full extent of the "epic" year Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino told Billboard about more than a month ago was revealed yesterday (Feb. 24) in the company’s Q4/2013 earnings report, which helped boost LN stocks by 8.42% to $23.69 per share by the end of closing Tuesday.
 
Among the highlights from yesterday’s report: 2013 revenue up 11% to $6.5 billion; adjusted operating income (AOI) up 10% to $505 million; and free cash flow up 9% to $300 million.
 

Backed by “a record year for revenue, AOI, and free cash flow,” Rapino sounded confident on Monday's investors call: “Our results demonstrate the effectiveness of our business model, establishing Live Nation as what we believe to be the number one player in each of our businesses,” he told investors, “with concerts driving our flywheel, which then is monetized across our high margin onsite sponsorship and ticketing businesses.”
 
Perhaps the most important metric of all: Live Nation's concert attendance was up 19%, with 60 million fans attending Live Nation events. Concert revenue for the year was up 17% on a global basis for Live Nation, which doubled AOI on concerts to $60 million. North American Concerts, a division run by co-presidents Bob Roux and Mark Campana, saw attendance increase by 18% (5.9 million fans) for the year, with amphitheaters alone attracting 13.9 million fans, up 2.8 million for the year. In the sheds, LN pulled off the tricky feat of increasing both show count (up 14%), and per-show attendance (up 10%), a scenario that played out elsewhere for Live Nation on a global scale.
 
LN’s North American arena business also grew, up 19%, (1.9 million fans), for the year. As was the case with sheds whose growth was also due to more shows (up 12% to nearly 1,300) and better attendance (up 7% per show).

On the call, COO Joe Berchtold said Live Nation’s festival business was up by almost 800,000 fans, “largely due to EDM activity.” While EDM remains LN’s fastest growing genre, country music, led by Live Nation Country president Brian O’Connell, is clearly a pillar of the firm’s business. On the earnings call, Rapino said, “We grew the business across all markets and venue types, as well as across all genres and music with country music delivering the greatest fan growth, up 2.3 million fans to nearly 7 million, a 50% increase year-over-year.”

Paralleling the overall live music industry, the growth in international touring activity is proving a boon to Live Nation, which operates in 33 countries. International attendance grew by 20%, with 600 more shows and an 11% jump in per-show attendance. LN presented 62 festivals worldwide, attracting 4.5 million fans, a 26% increase from 2012.
 
Rapino also noted that LN’s sponsorship and advertising business “reached almost 300 million in revenue, connecting over 750 sponsors with 900 million visitors to our online and mobile sites and 60 million onsite fans. We now have the scale and unique online and onsite user base to attract a broad advertising base, which drove 26% increase in ad units in 2013. At the same time our traditional sponsorship business continues to show strength, growing 11% last year. This was led by a 29% increase in festival sponsorship.

Long-term deals with Citi, Starwood, Hertz, Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola and UPS all expanded in 2013 -- including Live Nation's production of Bud Light's 50-50-1 program with 50 concerts in all 50 states on August 1 - while new clients included Ford, Bose and Motorola, the latter of whom signed on for a global, multi-million dollar sponsorship of the company's EDM festivals.

2014 is shaping up to be another big year for new business, with a freshly-inked deal with Microsoft's Skype just beginning to roll out in House of Blues venues.

"Brands are really looking to own properties and assets," Russell Wallach, president of Live Nation Alliances, told Billboard in January. "Whether that’s a 50-50-1 or what you see Budweiser do with Made In America, brands are looking to have ownable programs vs. just getting involved with existing assets."

Online and mobile advertising has also been a fast-growing source of revenue for the company, Wallach added, noting that business has grown by 100% over the past three years thanks to  clients like Jeep, Microsoft and Toyota. 

Facing the most competitive environment in its modern history, LN’s Ticketmaster division saw an AOI of $298 million, an increase of 1%, along with a 1% increase in fee-bearing tickets sold. On the earnings call, Rapino cited TM’s 400 million tickets issued (representing more than $17 billion in gross transaction value), and a 106% client renewal rate. Rapino also touted the launch of Ticketmaster’s new resale platform, which puts all tickets primary and secondary together in one place.

“We believe the $9 billion secondary market that has historically not benefited content owners will start to be captured by content, and Ticketmaster resale will be at the forefront of empowering this,” Rapino said.
 
Artist Nation, Live Nation’s artist management division (operating in its first full year since the departure of former chairman Irving Azoff, who led that division formerly known as Front Line before resigning in Dec. of ’12) saw AOI for the year of $32 million, down $6 million from last year. The division delivers profit margins of over 20%, but saw a decline in profitability of $6 million, “which was due to the departure of 12 artists with management in Dec. of 2012,” according to Berchtold, “and offset by savings elsewhere in the company. But, despite these departures, profits more than doubled in the fourth quarter, and were up in the second half of 2013, as we had a double-digit increase in revenue in this part of our business.”
 
The synergies between the management division and Live Nation’s core businesses seem to be coming to bear, as Live Nation is now promoting more shows by its management clients. “We increased the number of shows we promoted with Artist Nation acts by 50%,” Rapino said. “This delivered increased value of approximately $20 million to our concerts and ticketing businesses, while providing additional opportunities for our sponsors.”
 
Rapino may well have been referring to the addition of Guy Oseary and his clients Madonna and U2 to the Artist Nation fold when he said, “We now feel confident that with added leadership we will grow our artist management business in 2014, and it will continue to be a valuable pipeline into our concert flywheel.”
 
Even with these positive numbers, Live Nation is still operating in the red, but the gap is narrowing significantly. Net loss for 2013 was $43 million, compared to a loss of $163 million last year. On the call, CFO Kathy Willard pointed out, “After adjusting for the cost related to refinancing debt in the third quarter, our adjusted net loss for this year is $7 million, an improvement of $157 million over 2012.” Willard further pointed out that free cash flow for 2013 was $300 million, compared to $276 million in 2012, a year that included $26 million in tax refunds. Cash flow from operations was $417 million for the full year, as compared to $367 million last year, driven by the higher AOI.
 
As of Dec. 31, LN had total cash of $1.3 billion, which includes $538 million in ticketing client revenue, according to Willard. Free cash, which excludes event-related cash for future shows, was $445 million, up from $340 million in 2012. The increase in free cash comes from higher free cash flow, proceeds from the sale of the Foxwoods Theater in New York, and $85 million from stock options exercised during the year, “partially offset by higher acquisition activity in 2013,” Willard said.


Additional reporting by Andrew Hampp.