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Saudi Arabia acquires 5.7% stake in Live Nation

Live Nation has seen a 4.2 per cent bump in its share price after Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), purchased a passive 5.7 per cent stake in the company.

According to an SEC filing, the Saudi fund acquired a total of 12.3 million shares valued at approximately $500m. That makes PIF the live entertainment giant’s third-largest shareholder, with Liberty Media, which owns a 33 per cent stake, the largest.

The fund’s stake in Live Nation rose above five per cent as of April 16, according to the filing. Shares were up to around the $39 mark in early trading yesterday (Monday).

The filing said the securities, “were not acquired and are not held for the purpose of or with the effect of changing or influencing the control of the issuer of the securities and were not acquired and are not held in connection with or as a participant in any transaction having that purpose or effect.”

The PIF is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia and is among the largest investment groups in the world with total estimated assets of $320bn. It was founded for the purpose of investing funds on behalf of the Government of Saudi Arabia.

The move by PIF is the latest in series of investments in struggling companies that have been either hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, like cruise line operator Carnival, or whose shares have been hit by the collapse in crude prices, like European oil companies Royal Dutch Shell and Total. The sovereign fund has also agreed to buy a majority stake in English Premier League football club Newcastle United for £300m.

Live Nation has suffered a significant blow from the COVID-19 live events blackout, with more than 30,000 concerts and summer festivals being cancelled or postponed across the world. The entertainment giant has seen its share price plummet almost 50 per cent since February as its business came to a virtual standstill.

Earlier this month, the company was forced to make cost-reduction plans, including Live Nation chief executive Michael Rapino forgoing his $3m annual salary.

The live entertainment giant also unveiled a series of financial moves to protect its concert business amid the shutdown, including a new $120m credit facility and a ‘cost-reduction programme,’ which includes Rapino’s 100% pay cut.

Live Nation’s other senior executives will also face up to a 50% reduction in salaries, with president Joe Berchtold now receiving $650,000, down from $1.3m, according to an SEC filing.

PIF investments have been the source of controversy in the West. Last year, US media firm Endeavor cancelled a $400m investment from PIF after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was linked to the Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman – allegations which he denies.