Competition Commission has 24 weeks to probe.

Britain's Office of Fair Trading has referred to the Competition Commission Hamsard's planned acquisition of U.K. venue operator Academy Music Holdings Ltd.

Hamsard, the investment vehicle jointly controlled by Live Nation (Music) U.K. and Gaiety Investments Ltd, the Irish music-promotion company, had sought to buy a 51% stake in Academy Music.

Having completed its Phase One probe, the OFT's referral means the proposed merger will be investigated more thoroughly.

In a statement, OFT CEO John Fingleton said the regulator considered the effect such a purchase would have for competition among indoor live music venues in London.

"On the basis of the evidence received, the OFT is concerned that other indoor venues would not represent sufficient competitive constraints on the merging parties post merger," he commented. "This applies in particular to venues of a certain size in London. Non-competitor third party concerns about this merger were coherent and consistent and supported the OFT's analysis."

The CC has a 24-week period in which it must undertake its investigation and report its findings. This period can be extended by no more than eight weeks if it considers that there to be "special reasons".