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UK regulator offers new warning over Viagogo / StubHub merger

In the annals of unfortunately-timed business deals, Viagogo’s decision to buy rival secondary ticketing platform StubHub for $4bn a few months before a global pandemic shut down the live music industry will surely rank highly.

While the acquisition closed in February, an actual merger of the two companies has been on hold while regulators scrutinise it – particularly the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Yesterday, it offered its latest view: a provisional finding that the merger will reduce competition.

“Viagogo and StubHub are close competitors in an already very concentrated market with no significant additional competitors. They are the only 2 companies of material size in the UK’s secondary ticketing market with a combined market share of more than 90%,” announced the CMA.

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Viagogo and StubHub’s $4bn merger to face further review

What’s worse than agreeing to pay $4bn to buy a live-event ticketing company just before a global pandemic shuts down live events across the world? Having the planned merger held up due to regulatory investigations, that’s what.

Viagogo completed its acquisition of secondary ticketing rival StubHub in February this year, but the two companies aren’t allowed to integrate their businesses until they get the green light from UK regulator the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Earlier this month, it raised fresh concerns that the deal could be bad for competition in the secondary ticketing market, and gave Viagogo five days to address those concerns, to avoid facing an in-depth ‘phase 2’ investigation. It seems it was not satisfied with the answers, and yesterday that investigation was announced, with its report due by 9 December.

That means Viagogo and StubHub must continue to ride out the Covid-19 pandemic as separate entities. “During this period, the StubHub and Viagogo brands and operations will continue to be held separate as agreed with the CMA,” StubHub’s spokesperson told Reuters.

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StubHub is offering credit, not refunds, for cancelled events in US and Canada

The next big controversy around secondary ticketing has arrived, and it concerns whether buyers will get refunds for events that have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If they bought through StubHub, the answer is now ‘no’ in the US and Canada – unless they were bought in areas where such refunds are legally required.

“We were the first in our industry to begin offering customers 120% credit for the canceled purchases as a thank you for remaining patient in a very challenging period,” wrote president Sukhinder Singh Cassidy in a post online.