Lionsgate investors are trying to read the tea leaves after the independent studio announced last night that Chairman Mark Rachesky will sell about 22% of his stake in the company — and it disclosed that earnings are tracking at the low end of executives’ guidance.
The stock price is down 7% to about $31.30 in morning trading. Lionsgate says today that Rachesky’s stock will sell for $32.00 a share.
Investors took notice of a line tucked into the company’s SEC filing. It said financial results are “currently tracking within the lower range” of Lionsgate’s prediction that cash flow would come in between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion in the three fiscal years ending March 31, 2017.
That may reflect “recent box office underperformance of Mockingjay 1, Insurgent, and Mordechai,” says PiperJaffray analyst James Marsh. FBR & Co’s Barton Crockett also believes the adjustment “presumes a Mockingjay Part 2 performance on par with Part 1.”
Many also are trying to interpret the implications of Rachesky’s decision to reduce his stake in Lionsgate to 28% from 35%.
The sale “likely implies that a deal for the entire stake with a strategic acquire is not to be,” Stifel’s Benjamin Mogil says. The rumor mill churned with speculation of a possible sale to an overseas company — such as China’s Alibaba or Wanda Group — looking for a foothold in Hollywood.
Crockett also finds it interesting that Rachesky isn’t selling his shares to Liberty Media Chairman John Malone, who recently picked up a 3% stake in Lionsgate and a seat on its board. But he says he still believes that “Lionsgate shares could, over time, end up being accumulated bu Malone or other strategic investors.”
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