Exhibitors led entertainment shares Monday, popping higher in a mixed market as an analyst removed a “sell” rating on AMC Entertainment.
Imax led the group, up 8% in late morning trade. AMC had gained more than 5%; National Cinemedia, which sells in-theater advertising, is seeing gains of more than 4%; and Cinemark is changing hands up 1.3%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, meanwhile, has pared its earlier losses but remains in negative territory.
In a morning note, B. Riley FBR analyst Eric Wold upgraded AMC Entertainment to “neutral” from “sell,” saying he’s increasingly confident the world’s biggest theater chain can avoid bankruptcy during the coronavirus shutdown. The cash-strapped exhibitor last week announced a $500 million note offering to address liquidity concerns with zero revenue coming and a significant debt load. Wall Streeters had projected AMC had roughly three to four months of cash to fund operations. But Wold said management now estimates it has enough cash to see it through a partial reopening timeline into Thanksgiving.
White House Coronavirus Plan: Movie Theaters, Other Large Venues Can Reopen, But With Strict Physical Distancing
“After speaking with management over the weekend, we came away increasingly positive about both the ongoing rent flexibility discussions with landlords and management’s using the shutdown period as an opportunity to evaluate historical spending levels in order to drive a more efficient model going forward—in an effort to position AMC to de-lever the balance sheet after this latest debt offering,” Wold said. He said he’s optimistic U.S. theaters could begin reopening in late June, under strict physical-distancing protocols.
AMC has been a flashpoint in the business. Late last week, Eric Handler, an exhibition analyst with MKM Partners, reiterated a “sell” rating, called the debt issue a “near-term life line” but noting that it does not not solve the longer-term issue of adding more debt “on top of an already levered balance sheet.”
Cinemark executives last week showcased their solid financial position in a conference call with Wall Streeters and said they easily had a enough cash to see them through the closures. CEO Mark Zoradi sees theaters starting to ramp up in late June or July.
Imax doesn’t have the issues with leases that the other chains have. And it’s got a big presence in China so will benefit as activity picks up there.
U.K.-based Cineworld, the owner of Regal and another chain hampered by high debt, fell more than 7% Monday on the London Stock Exchange.
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