Is Live Nation (Live Nation Stock Quote, Chart, News NYSE:LYV) a buy here?
The stock has yet to make up the ground lost earlier this year, with the live entertainment company feeling the pressure of shuttered venues due to COVID-19. Investors should be wary, says Stan Wong of Scotia Wealth Management, since there’s no telling when those clubs and stadiums will fill up again.
If you were looking for a company with a strong grip on an industry, you would have been hard-pressed to find a better example than Live Nation Entertainment, the concert promoter and ticketing giant. Formed ten years ago by the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster only after the deal was vetted by regulators in a number of jurisdictions over potential anti-competition concerns, Live Nation is now huge, with assets in promoting, ticketing, music festivals, night clubs and more.
By the numbers, revenue for 2019 was $11.5 billion, up seven per cent over 2018, with operating income up 14 per cent to $943 million. Live Nation concert attendance grew by five per cent to 98 million in 2019, while by mid-February of this year, 38 million tickets had already been sold for 2020, up ten per cent from the previous year, and the company’s confirmed arena, stadium and amphitheater show count was up 30 per cent year-over-year.
That was then, however, and things have obviously taken a turn for the worse with COVID-19 pressing the pause button on live entertainment for the time being. Live Nation appears to have called 2020 a write off and is now pinning its hopes on a return in 2021. Over its latest quarter, the company’s Q2 delivered in August, revenue shrank to $141.8 million —that represents a 98-per-cent year-over-year decline.
And while the company appears well shored up with $3.3 billion in cash and equivalents after its second quarter, cash burn is at an estimated $125 million per month, meaning a lot is riding on a return to normal in the near future.
“While this is a challenging time for everyone –the live events business in particular– there are a few things that I am confident about: we are well positioned to weather this crisis, and we will get through this; when it is safe to return, we will have an abundance of fans and artists ready to enjoy live music again,” said Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino in the company’s second quarter press release.
Live Nation is now talking up the summer of 2021 and claiming that the vast majority of fans have decided to hold onto their tickets and wait for future shows instead of opting for refunds. And while there’s no doubt that concerts will be thumping at some point, Wong is less convinced that investors should be buying the stock on that hope.
“My only problem with [Live Nation] is, are we really going to be going to concerts and the Raptors games and so forth next year? Or is it going to be a little while longer?” said Wong, director of wealth management at Scotia, speaking on BNN Bloomberg on Wednesday. “There’s certainly some uncertainty with regards to this particular name.”
“I would argue that, yes, if we see a vaccine, yes, if we see the virus dissipate over the next six to 12 months, then this stock certainly has some value,” Wong said. “They do have a monopoly because they own Ticketmaster and they own the Live Nation entertainment, the concerts and so forth.”
“It’s just the uncertainty that keeps me away from this stock at this point. Without a pandemic, I think it’s a great company because they are a very unique type of provider,” Wong said.
Live Nation’s share price tanked in February and March as the world began to realize the extent of COVID-19’s impact on all forms of public gathering. The stock lost about 64 per cent of its value from peak to trough but has climbed fairly steadily since and is down 20 per cent for the year.
That’s not bad compared to other sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic. The airlines, for one, have failed so far to bring investors back on board, with stocks like Air Canada and United Airlines still down more than 50 per cent for 2020.
Ahead of Live Nation’s third quarter financials due on October 29, the company missed analysts’ consensus estimate for earnings in its second quarter, posting a loss of $2.67 per share compared to the consensus $2.10 per share. For the upcoming Q3, the Zack’s consensus estimate is for an earnings loss of $2.14 per share on a topline of $239 million, which would represent a 94-per-cent year-over-year drop in revenue.
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