UPDATED with comments from the earnings call: Lionsgate’s beleaguered stock price rebounded after hours on the strength of a solid second-quarter earnings report. The company on Thursday reported earnings per share of 22 cents, 2 cents ahead of Wall Street analysts’ consensus, with revenue of $983.5 million, also surpassing expectations.
Domestic subscriptions to Starz set a record for sequential growth with 1.2 million additions, giving the company 5.6 million OTT customers. Starz ended the quarter on September 30 with 27 million total subscribers around the world, up 1.8 million from the prior year quarter. The domestic tally stands at 24.7 million.
Even so, investors registered a hopeful note Thursday, sending the company’s beaten-down shares up 2% to $8.32. It gained another 8% after hours to top $9 a share for the first time in weeks.
The Motion Picture Group, which hit major bumps in the latter part of 2018 and early 2019, delivered improved results in the quarter. Highlights included Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Angel Has Fallen and Rambo: Last Blood, plus home entertainment results for John Wick: Chapter 3.
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Lionsgate still faces a number of thorny issues, from its strategy for Starz to its upcoming carriage renewal with Comcast. During a conference call with analysts to discuss the quarterly results, it declined to address carriage and avoided one question about M&A. A ripe acquisition target two years ago, Lionsgate has moved into a different phase. It held talks with CBS about Starz and an acquisition of the premium network, but the discussions did not produce an agreement. Lionsgate closed its $4.4 billion acquisition of Starz in late 2016, and CBS was said to be offering in the range of $5 billion. Those familiar with the process said the interest in Starz was inbound and Lionsgate would only consider a deal if it was a slam-dunk that would be supported by shareholders.
CEO Jon Feltheimer offered thoughts about having Starz and the legacy entertainment business under the same corporate roof, arguing the combination has many benefits. The expansion of Starz into 50 countries around the world “couldn’t happen without the Lionsgate library,” he said. Original series produced by Lionsgate will increasingly go through Starz, with a development slate of some 20 shows. “There’s just tremendous synergy that we’re just starting to tap,” Feltheimer said.
From a valuation perspective, separating the two would appear to show “a lot more money,” Feltheimer said. “Obviously, it’s a concern for us.” But those worries are more than outweighed by the collective resources of the company, which can support a Starz marketing campaign more effectively, the CEO said. A recent promotional partnership with Roku revolving around The Hunger Games yielded thousands of trial subscribers to Starz, Feltheimer said as an example.
“I’m concerned that we’re not getting the value in our stock, obviously, but I will tell you I have never seen a company or teams work together as closely as they do at our company,” he said.
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