Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. said Thursday it lost $1.07 billion in the fourth quarter due to a large accounting charge.

After the markets closed, the West Hollywood company said the net loss equaled $18.82 per share. Net income in the same period a year ago was $51.1 million (91 cents). Revenue rose 9 percent to $384 million.

The results include a $1.1 billion non-cash goodwill impairment charge. The write-off reflects the decline in the company's share price since it spun off from IAC/InterActiveCorp in August 2008. The company's stock, now selling at around $4, debuted at $20 when it went public.

Ticketmaster now hopes to merge with Beverly Hills event promoter and former customer Live Nation Inc., but the deal faces tough anti-trust scrutiny.

Minus the write-down, profits were still lower than Wall Street analysts expected. Excluding the charge, earnings were down 81 percent to $9.9 million (16 cents).
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters on average had expected earnings of 29 cents per share on revenue of $378 million.

Revenue beat expectations, but Ticketmaster attributed that mainly to recent acquisitions, including that of resale service TicketsNow, college-sports ticketing service Paciolan and talent agency Front Line Management. The talent agency's founder, Irving Azoff, is now Ticketmaster's chief executive and one of its largest shareholders.

The number of tickets sold during the quarter dropped 9 percent to 35.1 million and the gross value of the tickets sold fell 14 percent to $2.13 billion. The company said the poor economy, fewer big-name tours and loss of the Live Nation contract were contributors.

"Last year was a year of transition for Ticketmaster Entertainment," said Azoff in a statement. "While I'm pleased that in the midst of an evolving music industry and a challenged consumer environment we were able to show substantial growth in free cash flow, we won't be satisfied until we transform the company."

Free cash flow increased to $49 million from negative $15 million a year ago.

Prior to the earnings announcement, shares closed down 3 cents or less than 1 percent, to $4.09 on the Nasdaq.

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