Saudi Arabia takes 5% stake in Live Nation as coronavirus hits concert industry

Tribune Content Agency

Saudi Arabia has taken a 5.7% stake in Beverly Hills-based Live Nation, 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 impacted 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.

Earlier this month, Live Nation said it was implementing a salary reduction program where the salaries of senior executives by up to 50% and that its CEO would also forgo his salary. There will also be hiring freezes, rent re-negotiations, 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.

The Kingdom of 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 to 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.

The country has looked to invest in entertainment. In 2018, the kingdom said it planned to spend $64 billion on entertainment projects in the next decade.


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