The exhibition chain’s stock is up about 7.7% so far today, and hit a 52-week high of $32.60, as its stronger-than-expected Q4 earnings delighted investors — and revived speculation that it might soon be ripe for a takeover. Some analysts say that the stars will align if the leading theater ad sales company, National CineMedia, buys its rival Screenvision. That “could happen this year,” B. Riley’s Eric Wold says. And since Carmike owns about 19% of Screenvision, that “would also put Carmike in play to be acquired by one of the top three domestic exhibitors.” Benchmark Co’s Mike Hickey says that a deal would “create a +$300 million asset within Carmike” potentially enticing bidders to offer about $40 per share. Even without a deal, investors like Carmike’s report that its attendance per screen increased about 3% in Q4. That’s a contrast with AMC, Regal, and Cinemark which were down — one analyst attributed that to the holiday season launches of Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s XBox One gaming consoles. What accounted for the difference? Wold says that Carmike benefited from its small market theaters which operate “within somewhat competitor-free film zones.” Maxim Group’s John Tinker pointed to “the success of family-oriented films such as Frozen and The Hunger Games, which align well [with Carmike’s] concentration in suburban markets.” And Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter noted that the chain bought 52 screens from Cinemark and 147 from Muvico Theaters that “added three IMAX screens, two other premium format screens, and two Bogart’s Bar & Grill restaurants to Carmike’s portfolio.” The company ended Q4 with revenues +18.2% to $171.8M. Net income at $3.9M contrasts with last year’s $91.6M which included an $84.6M tax benefit.
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