An acquisition might be in the stars – or Starz – for Santa Monica studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., and that’s sending the company’s stock skyward.
On June 3, billionaire media mogul John Malone, who owns about 3 percent of the studio and sits on its board, said at an annual meeting of his holding companies that Lions Gate could buy TV network Starz and other “free radicals” such as AMC Networks Inc., home of hit shows “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” as Internet television and cord-cutting threatens traditional cable bundles.
The firm’s investor audience applauded that possibility. Shares of Lions Gate surged 8 percent during the week ended June 10 to close at $36.50, making the company, which is up nearly 34 percent over the past 12 months, one of the biggest gainers on the LABJ Stock Index. (See page 38.)
Lions Gate did not respond to a request for comment.
Analysts remain bullish overall on the film studio, which has produced some of the biggest hits in recent years, including the “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” franchises.
In a May 22 research note, a team of analysts at New York finance giant JPMorgan Chase Inc. led by Alexia S. Quadrani reiterated its “overweight” rating and $40 price target on Lions Gate, citing a strong slate of films in the pipeline, international growth and expansion in the studio’s TV offerings.
“We continue to view Lions Gate as well-positioned as a pure-play content provider,” Quadrani and her team wrote in the note.
A Starz deal could further enhance those TV offerings. The two companies were in talks last year, but couldn’t come to terms on a valuation. They completed a stock exchange agreement in February, which is what brought Malone onto Lions Gate’s board. Malone is Starz’s biggest voting shareholder.
One of the cable network’s newer series, “Power,” attracted 1.4 million viewers for its June 6 premiere, the highest ever for a Starz original series season opener.
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