- Associated Press - Monday, February 28, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Live Nation Entertainment Inc., the concert promoter that merged with Ticketmaster last year, said Monday that its net loss in 2010 more than tripled as concert attendance fell and ticket sales for other events also slumped.

Global ticket sales are seen posting a slight increase this year at best, as the concert industry recovers but labor disputes in the NBA and NFL loom on the horizon.

“We believe ticket sales bottomed in 2010, and will have a modest recovery in 2011,” Chief Executive Michael Rapino told analysts on a conference call.

The company’s net loss for the fourth quarter hit $124 million, or 72 cents per share, ballooning past the combined $104 million in losses it reported for the first nine months. The company said it booked $40 million in impairment charges in the final quarter on two venues and an artist deal even though the decline in ticket sales slowed.

The net loss in the three months to Dec. 31 reversed a net income of $479,000, or a penny per share, in the same quarter a year earlier.

Quarterly revenue fell 2 percent to $1.24 billion. Revenue was slightly higher than estimates of $1.12 billion, according to a FactSet survey.

The annual net loss hit $228 million, or $1.39 per share, compared to a loss of $60 million, or 73 cents per share, a year ago. Annual revenue was down 9 percent for the year at $5.06 billion.

Rapino said the economic environment remains challenging but said he was encouraged by ticket sales trends so far in 2011.

The company said it expects global ticket sales to be flat in 2011, as opposed to the 8 percent decline to 120 million tickets it sold last year. Concert attendance at shows it promotes is expected to rise this year, reversing the 9 percent decline to 47 million last year, but tickets sales are seen falling in the sports, arts and theater and family categories.

Rapino said the pipeline of artists planning to tour this year was “strong,” with acts such as U2 and Lady Gaga hitting the road. Those artists are still expected to command premium ticket prices, but Live Nation is looking to lower average prices at the 48 amphitheaters for which it books shows and reaps much of its profits.

More than three-quarters of artists represented by its Front Line artist management division are expected to tour this year, up from less than half who toured last year, it said.

Live Nation shares closed up 5 cents at $10.63 in the regular session on Monday before the results were announced. They were unchanged in extended trading.

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