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Universal Music Stock Rises on Layoff News, K-Pop Stocks Drop – Billboard

Universal Music Group (UMG) shares rose 3% on Friday — the same day news broke that the company will lay off hundreds of staffers — and finished the week up 6.9% to 26.95 euros ($29.54). The prospect of cost savings made UMG the top-performing music stock of the week, beating French music streaming company Deezer’s 6.5% gain and 6% improvements by both Chinese music streamer Tencent Music Entertainment and live entertainment company MSG Entertainment. 

UMG first let investors know it was planning layoffs in its October earnings call. On Friday, a report by Bloomberg said UMG is planning layoffs as early as this quarter, primarily in its recorded music division. A company spokesperson declined to comment on the scope and timetable of the layoffs but told Billboard UMG is “creating efficiencies” in certain areas of the business “so we can remain nimble and responsive to the dynamic market, while realizing the benefits of our scale.” UMG’s stock gained 14.7% in 2023.

Despite no stocks finishing the week with double-digit gains, the 20-company Billboard Global Music Index rose 3.6% to a record 1,566.45 as 12 companies posted gains and eight companies’ share prices declined. Streaming companies led the way with an average gain of 3.9%. Live music companies averaged a 0.7% improvement. Record labels and publishers dropped an average of 1.5%. Radio companies lost an average of 4%.

Music stocks topped the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite, which gained 3.1% to 14,972.76 and easily bested the S&P 500’s 1.8% increase to 4,783.83. In the United Kingdom, the FTSE 100 fell 0.8% to 7,624.93. South Korea’s KOSPI composite index dropped 2.1% to 2,525.05. 

The index got a big lift from Spotify’s 4.9% gain to $203.03 this week. Spotify has surged 12.4% since it announced layoffs on December 4 and pledged to operate more efficiently. On Thursday, Spotify closed above $200 for the first time since Feb. 1, 2022. At Friday’s closing price, the stock is up 120.5% in the last 52 weeks. 

Live Nation finished the week up 1.6% to $90.66 after Roth analyst Eric Handler upgraded the stock to “buy” and increased the price target from $92 to $114. The $114 price target implies a nearly 26% upside from Friday’s closing price. 

Shares of French music company Believe fell 10.5% to 8.97 euros ($9.83) on Friday’s news that the company’s investors were pursuing taking the company private. According to a Reuters report, Believe’s largest shareholders, which includes founder Denis Ladegaillerie and U.S. investment firm TCV, have been working with advisors to gauge the interest of private equity firms. In the first nine months of 2023, Believe, the owner of digital distributor TuneCore and record labels such as PlayTwo and Jo&Co, had revenue of 630.4 million euros ($691 million), up 14.8% year over year. 

While other companies in recorded music and publishing posted gains this week, K-pop stocks were down across the board. HYBE’s 2% decline to 247,000 won ($188.05) was the best of the four South Korean music companies. JYP Entertainment fell 8.3% to 96,600 won ($73.54). Two others each dropped 5.9%: SM Entertainment closed at 88,200 won ($67.15) and YG Entertainment finished the week at 43,100 won ($32.81). 

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