Viagogo offers UK regulator deal in StubHub merger bid

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The ticket resale website Viagogo has offered to sell StubHub’s businesses in the UK and outside North America, in an attempt to answer the concerns of Britain’s competition watchdog which provisionally blocked the $4bn (£3bn) tie-up between the two rivals.

Viagogo has put forward plans to sell StubHub’s holding company, which operates all of its international primary and secondary businesses, including its UK operations, along with its customer base. Under the proposals, Viagogo would retain StubHub’s much larger US and Canadian ticket resale business.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said in October that the combined company would have 90% of the ticket resale market, which would allow it to increase fees for consumers using the platform to buy or sell tickets to live events. The CMA told Viagogo that it may need to sell all or part of StubHub to address its competition concerns, and gave it three weeks to argue its case.

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Under Viagogo’s plans, submitted to the CMA on 5 November, the buyer of StubHub’s operations outside North America would receive customer and transaction data in the UK and beyond. The buyer would be allowed to use the StubHub UK brand for three years, followed by a year-long “blackout” where neither the buyer nor Viagogo could use the StubHub brand in Britain.

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Viagogo said the sale would include the Spain-based Ticketbis, which would “provide the purchaser with an established brand outside the UK, with a longstanding domain history”.

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In addition, Viagogo promised that the part of StubHub that it hoped to retain under the proposal would not market itself directly to UK customers, nor carry out any search engine marketing on Google’s UK website.

The takeover has previously been described as the “worst deal in history” after Viagogo agreed to buy StubHub from the online auction site eBay in February, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic halted most live events around the world.

The watchdog noted the impact of Covid on the live events industry, but said this would not lead to a “relaxation of the standards by which mergers are assessed”, and that it would work to protect consumers’ interests in the longer term. The CMA’s final decision is due by 9 December. If it agrees to Viagogo’s proposals, it has the power to appoint a trustee to manage the sale.

A Viagogo spokesperson said: “We look forward to working with the CMA to deliver a comprehensive solution which addresses their concerns and we believe this proposal would achieve that.”