Live Nation Helped By Ticketing Gains in First Quarter

Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP
Michael Rapino, President and CEO of Live Nation Entertainment, photographed on April 16, 2014 in Los Angeles. 

Increases in primary and secondary ticket sales a driving force for the concert promoter.

Concert promoter Live Nation saw growth almost across the board in the first quarter of 2015 and was helped by a strong Ticketmaster performance. Total revenue was $1.12 billion, down 0.6 percent from the prior-year period but up 4.4 percent at constant currency. Operating loss fell to $23.9 million from $12.3 million and at constant currency was a slightly better $22.5 million.

Net loss more than doubled to $66.5 million from $30.2 million. Free cash flow was $24 million, down from $35 million a year earlier.

PepsiCo Replaces Coca-Cola As Live Nation's Official Soft Drink, Bottled Water Partner

The net loss of $0.31 per share was better than the $0.3 per share expected by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. Live Nation shares had fallen 2.2 percent on Thursday, compared to a decline in the NYSE composite of 0.9 percent, and fell another 2.1 percent in after-hours trading. The company said it remains on track to deliver its 2015 plan.

Revenue in the concerts division fell 1 percent to $623.2 million but increased 4 percent at constant currency, which is absent the effects of foreign currency fluctuations. The company had an estimated 8.59 million fans from 5,035 events compared to 9 million fans from 4,806 events in the prior-year period. Live Nation attributed the rise in events and fall in fans to an increased number of club shows in the quarter.

Bonnaroo Founders Talk Impact of Live Nation Deal, Including More Events at 'The Farm'

Ticketing revenue rose 6 percent to $375.6 million or 11 percent at constant currency. The division accounted for $21.1 million of revenue growth and $12.3 million of operating income growth. The company attributed the growth to higher primary ticket sales and higher revenue in its secondary ticketing businesses, although it did not break out the performance of its new TM+ platform it hopes will give it a greater share of the $5 billion U.S. ticket resale market. Mobile ticket sales were up 35 percent and represented 21 percent of total ticket sales, up from 16 percent in the first quarter of 2014.

Sponsorship and advertising revenue rose 15 percent to $52.1 million, or 22 percent at constant currency. Revenue at Artist Nation, Live Nation's artist management division, increased 7 percent to $77.9 million, or 10 percent in constant currency.

The company's latest festival acquisition, Bonnaroo, occurs in June and will hit next quarter's income statement. Launching festivals is "an expensive game to scale from scratch," CEO Michael Rapino said during Thursday's earnings call. Instead, he said, Live Nation prefers to acquire festivals with scale and attendance around 30,000 because of their advertising potential and ability to benefit from Live Nation's artist roster.

Live Nation has spent an increasing amount of money in recent years acquiring controlling interests in festivals in either the United States or United Kingdom: $210.2 million in 2014, $93.5 million in 2013 and $75.6 million in 2011, according to the company's 2014 annual report