AMC Networks shares are up about 3.2% in late morning trading after it announced the $500 million stock repurchase authorization — even though it adds that the buy backs have “no pre-established closing date and may be suspended or discontinued at any time.”
The effort “reflects our belief that our shares represent an attractive investment opportunity, our confidence in the future of our business and our commitment to enhancing long-term shareholder value,” CEO Josh Sapan says. The authorization “provides us with additional flexibility for capital allocation while preserving our strong balance sheet and allows us to continue to pursue growth opportunities.”
The board’s vote of confidence comes as many investors question AMC’s ability to keep growing. Its share price is down 8.8% so far in 2016, and 16.8% since early December.
All independent pay TV programmers are under pressure as consumers either cut the cord or look for other opportunities to reduce their outlays.
AMC also is a victim of its own success. Last year the company benefited from the final season of Mad Men. And the current quarter may look soft compared to the first three months of 2015: The year-ago period had more episodes of hits The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul. The Walking Dead season finale ran in last year’s Q1, but this time will air on April 3 putting it a few days into Q2.
Last month the company told investors to expect a “modest” increase in programming outlays in 2016. It looks toward “mid to high single-digit growth” in fees paid by cable and satellite companies, All told, profit margins at the National Networks will be “largely consistent” with last year.