Live Nation sure made it hard to find the good news in its 3Q report. The basic data looks terrible: It had net income from continuing operations of $63M, down 3.1% from last year’s 3Q, on revenues of $1.79B, down 2.5%. The revenue figure was far less than the $1.91B that analysts expected. And the continuing operations delivered 27 cents a share while analysts forecast 38 cents. So where’s the good news? The concert business was more profitable than expected, helping the company to deliver adjusted operating income of $203.6M — up 6.8% from last year and beating the $197M that the Street forecast. “It was a huge relief” says Maxim Group’s John Tinker — especially since lots of investors figured the concert business would be one of the first victims of a weakening economy. Live Nation shares were flat in after-hours trading. “Concerts and sports, the core of our business, have both held up,” CEO Michael Rapino told analysts in a conference call. Still, there are a few potential problems ahead. The company says it might lose $10M in adjusted operating income in 4Q due to the NBA lockout. Also, big acts including Van Halen, Neil Diamond, and Jimmy Buffet have deferred their tour plans, and The Eagles reduced their schedule — although the company says that Diamond and Van Halen will be back in next year’s 2Q.
Live Nation’s increase in ticket prices didn’t deter many people from going to see concerts in 2Q. The company reported net earnings of $13.3M, up from a $32.8M loss in the same period last year, on revenues of $1.56B, up 23.1%. Profits at 7 cents a share beat the 2 cents expected by analysts who follow the company. The Street also fell short in forecasting just $1.32B in revenues. The company says that 13.1M people attended 5,834 events sponsored by Live Nation; last year it had 12.3M people at 5,558 events. Although concert revenues were up, this year’s events were less profitable: Live Nation made up for that with big increases in earnings from its Artist Nation talent-management unit and tour sponsorships. Meanwhile, Ticketmaster sold $2.1B worth of tickets, up 15.7%. “We are seeing the global ticketing business stabilize and concert business grow year-over-year, and we remain optimistic about continue growth opportunities in the industry long term,” says CEO Michael Rapino. Live Nation shares are up 5.4% in after-hours trading after falling 6.4% during the day.