Saudi Arabia takes 5.7% stake in Live Nation as coronavirus hits concert industry
Saudi Arabia has taken a 5.7% stake in Beverly Hills-based Live Nation Entertainment Inc., the world’s largest concert promoter, according to a document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.
The investment, valued at about $500 million, comes as businesses like Live Nation that depend heavily on live events have been hard hit by COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns about the disease have shut down or postponed music festivals and concerts, including ones hosted by Live Nation.
The company said 8,000 shows were affected by the suspension of events from mid-March through March 31. Live Nation sold 15 million tickets for those shows, many of which were postponed. About 10% of the tickets sold were for shows that were canceled, Live Nation said.
Live Nation and its Ticketmaster division have been criticized and sued over how they have handled refunds. Ticketmaster said earlier this month it had 30,000 events canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 this year, affecting $2 billion in ticket revenue. On Friday, Live Nation said it was updating its refund policy. Ticket holders can request a refund if a new date has not been set after 60 days of the event’s postponement.
Earlier this month, Live Nation said it was implementing a salary reduction program where the salaries of senior executives would be cut by up to 50% and that its chief executive would also forgo his salary. There will also be hiring freezes, rent renegotiations and furloughs, among other cost-cutting measures, the company said.
“Given the uncertainty associated with the duration of current conditions globally, the company has launched a number of initiatives to reduce fixed costs and conserve cash,” Live Nation said earlier this month.
Two local giants, Live Nation and AEG, dominate the touring industry. They should be able to weather the impact of coronavirus, but others may not be so fortunate.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has 12,337,569 Live Nation shares, worth about $500 million on Monday morning. The company’s stock was trading at $40.43, up about 6% on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock price is significantly down from a recent peak on Feb. 19, when the stock was trading at $76.60 a share.
Despite efforts by the kingdom to build ties in Hollywood, some companies have been reluctant to take investment from Saudi Arabia following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Beverly Hills-based Endeavor returned the kingdom’s $400-million investment amid concerns about Khashoggi’s death.
Saudi Arabia has also invested in other companies that are reeling from the coronavirus crisis, including Miami-based cruise operator Carnival Corp. On March 26, the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund had an 8.2% stake in Carnival, according to an SEC filing.
Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old crown prince of Saudi Arabia, is sure to be treated like a movie star when his tour of the United States comes to Los Angeles this week.
The kingdom has looked to invest in entertainment and sports. In 2018, the kingdom said it planned to spend $64 billion on entertainment projects in the next decade.
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