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Lionsgate stock was up nearly 12% ($2.32 per share) in early trading Thursday after reporting a better than expected fiscal fourth quarter results, fueled by a global deal for its original series Orange is the New Black and strong revenue from production house Pilgrim Studios.
Lionsgate stock rose as high as $22.08 per share (up $2.32 each) in early trading Thursday, and settled down to close at $21.26 each, up 7.6% per share. For the quarter, television revenue was up 15.6% to a record $669.9 million from $579.5 million, on the OINB deal and strong sales from Pilgrim, which produces such reality fare as Ghost Hunters and Fast and Loud. Lionsgate purchased a 50% interest in Pilgrim in November for an estimated $200 million.
"Our television business had a record year with all categories contributing great results, and we expect its strong growth to continue this year," said Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer in a statement. "Although last year's film slate didn't match the performance of previous years, this year's slate is bigger, more balanced and is expected to generate greater profitability. We also expect to continue creating long-term value by deepening our portfolio of brands and franchises and solidifying our status as a preferred partner to owners of intellectual property, third-party distributors and digital platforms worldwide."
The TV results helped offset continued softness in its movie studio – the latest installment in the Divergent series, Allegiant and Gods of Egypt, which performed better overseas than in the U.S. On a conference call with analysts, Feltheimer said the company was excited about its 2017 movie slate, which includes a Power Rangers reboot and action sequel John Wick: Chapter Two.
But it was the TV business the held the day, which Feltheimer said now accounts for one-third of total revenue and is poised for further growth.
Feltheimer addressed possible M&A moves on the conference call, adding that Comcast’s recent deal to acquire DreamWorks Animation for about $3.8 billion and Chinese entertainment company Dalian Wanda’s $3.5 billion purchase of Legendary Entertainment point out that the true value in content studios isn’t necessary in revenue or profitability, but in developing franchises and strong brands.
“That’s what we’re working on,” Feltheimer said, adding that Lionsgate is focusing on “developing, acquiring and mining great content and great brands.”
Feltheimer added that Lionsgate and Pilgrim Studios CEO and founder Craig Piligian could team up on small tuck-in acquisitions to help bolster its content offerings.
Lionsgate didn’t mention its interest in premium channel Starz. In February, Lionsgate said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it was interested in starting talks with the channel about a possible combination.
The merger talks reportedly stalled after Lionsgate’s shares plunged nin the wake of disappointing box office showings for the final installment in the Hunger Games franchise: Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. On the call, vice chairman Michael Burns said while the stock is still down from last year’s highs, that only limits their ability to do all-stock deals. Lionsgate still has a strong balance sheet, which would enable it to do deals that are a mixture of stock and cash.
“We have plenty of capacity to do a lot of deals,” Burns said.
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