Live Nation Has Record Third Quarter on Festival, Ticketing Strength

Olav Stubberud

Revenue of $2.8 Billion. North American attendance up 9 percent. A total of 24 million fans worldwide.

Live Nation rode a 9.8 percent gain in fan attendance to the best quarter in the company's history. Third quarter earnings released Thursday showed revenue rose 10.1 percent at constant currency to a record $2.8 billion (reported revenue was a record $2.6 billion).

Net income per share was 39 cents, slightly under the consensus amongst analysts surveyed by Thomas Reuters of 43 cents a share. Operating income was $163.9 million at constant currency ($153.5 million reported revenue). Investors were pleased enough to send the company's shares up over 6 percent in after hours trading Thursday evening. 

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"I thought it was great," Albert Friend & Co. analyst Rich Tullo said of Live Nation's quarter. He pointed to the turnaround in the European concert market and its year-over-year growth of 400,000 tickets and 566,000 fans, positive signs the region is seeing a recovery. 

Over 24 million fans attended Live Nation events in the key third quarter. Its events have had 48 million fans in the first nine months of the year. Attendance in North America grew 9.3 percent to 18.6 million, representing a 1.6 million-fan gain.

Revenue in the concerts division, the chief driver of the company's business, rose 8.8 percent $2.1 billion at constant currency ($2.0 billion reported revenue). Its operating income fell 9.4 percent to $45.2 million at constant currency. During the earnings call, chief operating officer Michael Rapino credited improvements in the fan experience helped per-fan revenue grow 8 percent.

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Festivals and North American shows drove the gains. Live Nation singled out the Lollapalooza festival and its 330,000 fans as a contributor to growth in the quarter. Amphitheater attendance grew 1 million to 10 million fans.

In percentage terms, Ticketing was one of the big gainers. Ticketing revenue grew 16 percent to $446.5 million at constant currency ($426.2 million reported revenue). In terms of gross transaction value, primary and secondary tickets combined rose 18 percent. In constant currency, Ticketmaster's secondary business rose 22 percent in gross transaction value. "We absolutely believe the high growth we have in that business [suggests] we are taking share" from secondary competitors, said chief operating officer Joe Berchtold.

The other big gainer was the sponsorships and advertising division. It grew 17.1 percent to $134.2 million at constant currency ($126.6 million reported revenue). Rapino cited revenue from sponsorships and advertising as a main source of organic growth. "We believe Madison Avenue is going to shift more dollars to event-based, engaged business," he said.

New festivals like Bonnaroo, picked up through Live Nation's acquisition of C3 Presents in December, are also a source of growth. Rapino said festival sponsorship revenue grew 40 percent at constant currency in the third quarter. 


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