Live Nation Entertainment delivered its fifth consecutive year of record revenue, profitability and free cash flow in 2015, but these overwhelmingly positive earnings figures were released on a “constant currency basis,” an approach which eliminates the volatility of exchange rate fluctuations, not an uncommon practice for international companies.
On a “generally accepted accounting principles” basis, or GAAP, Live Nation reported revenue of $7.24 billion, “which compares to our $7.08 billion estimate,” says analyst Rich Tullo, director of research at Albert Fried & Company. “Operating income [of] $131 million missed our estimate of $180 million, [which] might be an issue with foreign exchange.”
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The company cites on-site advertising as its prime growth driver for the year, with growth in that division at 17 percent for the year.
Even so, attendance to its concerts drives the whole Live Nation model, and tickets sold are tickets sold around the globe, and not subject to fluctuation. In that respect, Live Nation excelled last year, growing attendance by 8 percent to a record 63 million fans. Live Nation promoted a dominant share of the biggest tours of 2015, including major runs by U2, Madonna, One Direction, Luke Bryan, Fleetwood Mac, Ariana Grande, and many others. Additonally, Live Nation is now the leading festival operator in the world, greatly expanding its festival footprint in North America in 2015 with the acquisitions of Bonnaroo and C3 Presents coming to bear.
“I will say that [Live Nation] overall did very well,” says Tullo, who adds that Live Nation’s results were influenced by a strong U.S. dollar, “making international results look weak when, in fact, the volume — despite the Paris terror attacks — [was] good.”
Live Nation’s Ticketmaster division moved more than 530 million tickets in 2015, for record 12 percent growth in global gross transaction value [GVT] for a total GVT of $25 billion from primary and secondary combined. Secondary ticketing, which TM is now operating in 13 countries, delivered 34 percent growth in GTV for the year to $1.2 billion at constant currency in 2015, primarily driven by Ticketmaster’s TM+ secondary ticketing solution. “Fans have continued to say their main goal is simply to get a ticket to the show or game they want,” says Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino in the earnings release, “and, as a result, integrated inventory conversion was 38 percent higher than primary only offerings.”
Despite increased competition in the ticketing sector, Rapino says Ticketmaster grew its client base each year for the past five years, “and combining the primary and secondary marketplaces has substantially increased the inventory available to fans.”
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He adds that heavy investment in online and mobile products has led to increased visits and conversion. “As a result, already in 2016 we have had three days selling over 900,000 tickets, placing them among the top 15 days of all time, [and] setting us up to deliver robust growth in ticket sales for the year,” Rapino says.
The live business is “elevated, not threatened, by technology, and is borderless,” Rapino says. “Fans around the world can now discover, follow, share and embrace artists, creating greater demand for live shows.”
Rapino tells investors that the live business sector “will continue to have strong growth for years to come, as fans globally drive demand, artists are motivated to tour, and technology drives conversion.” He also touts robust artist development that “continues to re-energize the business,” pointing out that 13 of Live Nation’s top 20 ticket sellers were new from the previous year.
“We plan on holding more concerts for more fans in more countries than ever before. We expect to sell more advertising, both onsite and online. And through continued product innovation at Ticketmaster, we plan on selling more tickets and driving increased conversion,” writes CEO Michael Rapino in a statement. To that end, the company acquired Big Concerts three days ago (Feb. 22), South Africa’s leading promoter.
So far this year, Live Nation says that, through Feb. 19, ticket sales are up 5 percent year-on-year, driven by 18 percent growth in amphitheaters and 47 percent growth in stadiums.
Correction, Feb. 25, 5:57 p.m. ET: This story originally pointed to Live Nation having earned $7.6 billion in revenue at a constant currency basis, which is not inaccurate. However this figure has been replaced with the company’s reported revenue of $7.2 billion.[Billboard]