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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS Unveils Tentative Deal to Acquire U.K. Firm

E-commerce: Costa Mesa company would buy First Call International in stock swap worth up to $127 million.


Online e-commerce company Inc. said Tuesday that it has tentatively agreed to acquire the United Kingdom's second-largest ticketing company in a stock swap valued at $104 million to $127 million, based on Tuesday's closing price.

The deal with First Call International Ltd. would create a live entertainment destination with broad international reach, said in a release late Tuesday.

The Costa Mesa ticketing company figures the combination will increase its market share in the United Kingdom, where the overall market is estimated at more than 130 million entertainment tickets a year.

The deal would give First Call shareholders 7.6 million to 9.3 million shares--or more than 11%--of

The price per share would be based on the average closing price of over the 30-day period before the deal is closed, the company said.

Shares of closed at $13.63 a share Tuesday, down $1.06 in Nasdaq trading.

The transaction is subject to various approvals and completion of a definitive agreement.

First Call, which had sales of $20.5 million last year, has sold tickets to such high-profile events as concerts by the Backstreet Boys, Eric Clapton and Whitney Houston, as well as award-winning West End theater shows such as "Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables.", which began online sales in 1997, has been raising its profile and sales lately. In January, Olympic organizers in Salt Lake City tapped the company to sell about 800,000 seats for the 2002 Winter Games. valued that arrangement at up to $8 million over 2 1/2 years. has made some headway in the offline world as well. The company announced in January that it had signed agreements to provide Internet ticketing capabilities to more than 400 venues worldwide.

Like many online ventures, has been losing money. It lost $66.6 million last year, even though sales increased 56% to a record $45.9 million.

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