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Regulator takes monopoly concerns over St David’s Hall takeover ‘very seriously’

15 Mar 2023 3 minute read
St David’s Hall. Photo by ell brown is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A competition regulator said it takes councillors’ concerns about an offer from a major events company to run St David’s Hall very seriously.

A number of Cardiff councillors wrote to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last month to raise concerns that the potential takeover of the classical music venue by Academy Music Group (AMG) could lead to a monopolization of event venues in the city.

The eight councillors who wrote to the CMA pointed out that Live Nation, which owns a large part of AMG, currently operates the Cardiff International Arena and will be a joint operator of the new arena at Cardiff Bay.

In response to the letter, which was signed by Councillors Adrian Robson, Calum Davies, Catriona Brown-Reckless, Joel Williams, Emma Reid-Jones, John Lancaster, Peter Littlechild and Sian-Elin Melbourne, the CMA said: “We take such concerns very seriously.”

The regulator added that it cannot speculate on what mergers it will or will not investigate, and that its assessment of merger activity, prior to opening an investigation, is a confidential and market sensitive process.

An offer by AMG to take on St David’s Hall via a long-term lease was approved in principle by Cardiff Council’s cabinet in December. However, a final decision isn’t expected until a voluntary ex-ante transparency (VEAT) notice period is complete.

A VEAT notice allows competitors to come forward with a challenge to a proposed deal – something which would lead to a procurement process.

Competition concerns

The CMA said in their response to the councillors: “I can assure you, however, that the CMA is closely monitoring potential competition concerns arising out of merger activity in this sector – and the risk of less choice for consumers and higher prices as a result of consolidation.”

The CMA looked into two acquisitions involving Live Nation in 2016 and 2019, but neither of the instances led to any action being taken.

The CMA added:”While both of these mergers were ultimately cleared on the basis that they would not lead to a substantial lessening of competition within markets in the UK, our experience in these inquiries will assist us with closely monitoring future merger activity within this sector.”

A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “As we understand it, should the Competition and Markets Authority choose to investigate this proposed takeover of St David’s Hall then it would liaise directly with AMG to discuss any concerns.

“However, should the Commission require any information from Cardiff Council we will of course help them with any enquiry.”

AMG has been approached for a comment.

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