Live Nation Retreats as Regulators Turn Focus to Ticketed Events

(Bloomberg) -- Live Nation Entertainment Inc., the producer of live concerts, may have to bask in a different kind of spotlight, as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has now shifted its attention to the integrity of the events ticketing business.

“The Commission has a strong interest in protecting consumer confidence in the online marketplace,” the agency said in a statement Thursday. In an effort to draw answers, the FTC will host a workshop in March to examine “problematic practices” of the industry.

The announcement comes just two weeks after Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc., Live Nation’s ticket sales and distribution unit, was accused of colluding with ticket scalpers to facilitate and benefit from the scalping of ticketed events, according to a joint-report by the Toronto Star and CBC News.

The Beverly Hills, California-based company has since denied the allegations. Shares Thursday staged their biggest decline since April, down as much as as 7.3 percent, although they remain 23 percent higher for the year-to-date.

“Ticketmaster welcomes and looks forward to participating in the FTC workshop," Live Nation said in a statement inviting other ticketing companies to take part. “To be clear, this is an industry wide workshop -- not a probe," Live Nation said.

An FTC hearing “poses little near-term risk” to Live Nation, wrote Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Kanterman in a note. In fact, the issues at hand could be a positive for the company “as it’ll be easier to get tickets to real fans and deepen its relationship with artists, bolstering its concerts business,” he said.

The FTC, in its statement, detailed its interest in addressing complaints from consumers and competitors, including practices that prevent concertgoers from buying tickets, actions that mislead consumers about price or availability, or mislead buyers about the entity from which they are buying.

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