UPDATED with details of executive compensation plan:
In an unusual move for a big public company and a bid to buck up the malingering stock, AMC’s 14 top executives including CEO Adam Aron agreed to slash their cash salary and bonuses for three years in exchange for stock that will only vest if the price doubles or triples.
Their cash payouts will be shaved by 15% and other compensation will be tweaked too. Aron said during a post-earnings conference call that it’s a $1.6 million hit for him personally over three years but he’s doing it because he and other managers believe really strongly the shares are “fundamentally mispriced at current levels.”
In lengthy remarks he basically declared war on AMC’s $6 stock, which has declined by over 50% in the past year, and over 80% in the past five. AMC said all senior officers have signed on to the new pay regime except ones retiring during the period. Two recent new hires also agreed to accept lower compensation than they were earning previously elsewhere in order to join AMC and participate.
Hitting on a few reason why the stock’s underperformed – debt and spending – he noted that both are heading south and reassured the Street that none of the company’s debt matures anyway until 2024. Investments are tapering down as the bulk of U.S. theaters
have already been upgraded. AMC also said Thursday it will start buying back stock, which tends to boost the price. Aron ticked off the reasons the exhibition industry is sound and touted metrics where AMC outpaces it, insisting the future is bright and just about begging Wall Street to get with the program and stop doubting.
The low stock price and the debt load have sparked on-and-off rumors of everything from a Chapter 11 filing to a takeover.
The numbers were good. The giant theater chain’s revenue reached $1.4 billion, up 2.4%. It swung to a net loss of $13.5 million in the fourth quarter on a hit from one[time items but excluding those posted a profit of nearly $40 million.
The company said the A-List tier of its AMC Stubs loyalty program, which launched in June 2018, has attracted more than 900,000 subscribers. During the first quarter of 2019, AMC implemented a 10% membership price increase in ten states and a 20% price increase in five states. He said the program exceeded expectations and appeared to be profitable for the quarter and the year.
AMC has 1,006 theaters and 11,,091 screens in the top five biggest markets in the country, including New York, Phildalelphia, San Francisco Atlanta and Dallas. It operates 22 of the 50 highest-grossing theaters in the U.S., including four of the top five.