LOS ANGELES Two of the biggest forces in the entertainment business in the U.S. are joining up.
Concert promoter Live Nation Inc. and ticketing giant Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. said Tuesday morning that they plan an all-stock merger of equals. The combined company will be called Live Nation Entertainment.
Under the deal, approved by both companies' boards, Ticketmaster shareholders will receive 1.384 shares of Live Nation stock for each share of Ticketmaster they hold. The companies estimated the value of the combined business at about $2.5 billion and said the deal will help them save about $40 million annually.
"Being able to put Live Nation and Ticketmaster into an equal partnership will allow the companies to get through this difficult period and be able to expand live entertainment options to audiences throughout the world," Ticketmaster Chairman Barry Diller said in a statement.
But regulatory experts have said the deal could be delayed by an antitrust review because of the companies' dominant role in the entertainment business.
Ticketmaster sells tickets for more than 80 percent of the major arenas and stadiums in the U.S., according to concert tracking firm Pollstar. Live Nation is the world's No. 1 concert promoter and owns more than 140 venues. It has comprehensive deals to the tours of such artists as Madonna, Jay-Z, U2, Nickelback and Shakira and recently developed its own ticketing service.
The ticketing-service move brought the companies closer to an all-out scramble for ticketing deals. A merger heads that off, but experts say snuffing out that competition could draw close scrutiny from regulators wary of the company building a concert industry monopoly.
On the other hand, the deal could end up benefiting concertgoers by giving the combined company more bargaining clout with artists, potentially reducing performers' stakes in ticket sales and thus lowering ticket prices.
The deal already has at least one prominent detractor, however.
Bruce Springsteen, already furious with Ticketmaster for directing fans to a subsidiary selling tickets for above-face value, recently posted a statement on his Web site saying a deal with Live Nation could end up "returning us to a near-monopoly situation in music ticketing."