RealTime IT News

Tickets.com Hopes IPO Will Be An Event

Thanks in part to its pre-Internet brand strength and the high visibility of entertainment industry mogul and owner Barry Diller, Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch has captured most of the attention in the fast-growing market for online events tickets.

But another Internet ticket vendor is preparing to challenge Ticketmaster (TMCS) with a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign and an initial public offering scheduled this week.

Tickets.com, a three-year-old company assembled through an aggressive acquisition strategy, is expected to price 6.7 million shares between $7 and $9 each in hopes of raising $53.6 million for its battle with Ticketmaster.

The company will trade on the Nasdaq ticker under the symbol TIXX. Lead underwriter for the IPO is Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

Forrester Research estimates that online event ticketing sales will grow from $300 million this year to $3.9 billion in 2004. Tickets.com touts this forecast in its S-1 filing, and is pinning hopes for expansion on growth in the online ticketing market.

As of now, however, Internet-based sales are a small portion of Tickets.com's revenue, though they have grown from 4.2% to 8.0% to 8.3% in the first three quarters of 1999. Nearly 42% of the $36 million in revenue in the nine months ended Sept. 30 comes from the licensing of ticketing software and related services.

One problem the company has had is that most of its clients currently lack a software upgrade necessary to allow them to use Tickets.com's Internet ticketing services. The company has only recently begun shipping the upgrade. This process will put a damper on revenue in the short-term.

Also, Tickets.com also has a debt build-up that the scheduled IPO will only begin to ease. Having acquired eight ticketing companies since its inception in 1996, Tickets.com reports an accumulated deficit to $87.4 million through Sept. 30.

Another thing that investors should know is that Tickets.com is being sued by Ticketmaster, which claims that when Tickets.com directs a consumer to an event handled by Ticketmaster, it links them to the actual purchase page, rather than the Ticketmaster home page, thus causing the viewer to miss pages with ads.

On the plus side, the company has a well-known investor and partner - Excite@Home (ATHM), which in August announced it would invest $55 million in Tickets.com. Along with a blue-chip underwriter, the involvement of Excite@Home may bolster investor confidence enough to give Tickets.com a strong debut.

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