Billionaire lifts bid to $7 a share

Amping up the pressure on Lionsgate, Carl Icahn has raised his hostile offer for the company to $7 a share, a 17% increase.

The new bid, announced Thursday after the stock market closed, is the latest salvo in the company’s ongoing battle with the billionaire, who already owns 19% of Lionsgate.

Shares of Lionsgate, which had dropped 3 cents during the session, jumped 47 cents in afterhours trading to $6.84.

“We decided to raise our offer price not because we believed $6 per share to be inadequate but rather because we felt it necessary to make every effort to protect the investment we currently have in Lions Gate,” Icahn said in his letter.

He also declared that he’ll oust the current leadership if his offer — which expires May 14 — succeeds. “We do not feel comfortable that existing management is the right team to guide Lionsgate through this difficult period,” Icahn said.

In response, Lionsgate issued a statement recommending that shareholders take no action. Lionsgate toppers Jon Feltheimer and Michael Burns have contended previously that Icahn’s offer was inadequate and coercive.

“Consistent with its fiduciary duties and in consultation with its special committee and financial and legal advisors, Lionsgate’s board of directors will review Mr. Icahn’s revised offer and will make its recommendation to shareholders promptly,” the company said.

In a separate development, billionaire investor Mark Cuban disclosed in a regulatory filing that he owns 5.4% of Lionsgate. Cuban is a co-founder with Todd Wagner of 2929 Entertainment and he owns the Landmark exhib chain, among other investments.

Lionsgate went directly to shareholders earlier this week in its battle with Icahn, portraying him as a meddler, and declaring it would be a “grave mistake” to accept his takeover offer. The minimajor made the assertion Monday in a letter to shareholders in advance of a May 4 meeting to enact the company’s poison pill provision that would dilute the value of Icahn’s shares if he exceeds a 20% stake.

“The Icahn Group lacks media industry expertise yet seeks to interfere in Lionsgate’s strategy and management and derail the company’s growth strategy to build value for all Lionsgate shareholders,” the company said in the 13-page letter.

Icahn’s letter urged shareholders to vote against the poison pill. “Our contention has always been that shareholders should be free to decide for themselves whether or not they believe our offer is fair,” he said.

Icahn also noted that shares have lost over 45% of their value over the last five years.

“The board continues to describe Lionsgate’s horrible share performance as a tale of great success,” he added. “In materials filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, the Board stated that Lions Gate had ‘delivered exceptional growth and created value’ and ‘generated returns to shareholders that outpaced industry peers and the broader market.’ What am I missing? Something does not add up.”

Lionsgate received some positive news Thursday as Piper Jaffray reiterated its “overweight” rating with a $10 price target. Analysts James Marsh and Michael Sklansky cited “material progress at (Lionsgate) cable networks, a reinvigorated theatrical release schedule that employs limited risk capital and continued momentum in the TV business as catalysts to move (Lionsgate) shares higher.”

The duo said Friday’s release of “Kick-Ass” could help raise investor awareness, adding that the superhero actioner could top $100 million in its domestic run. It also said the $127 million investment in the TV Guide Network is looking “increasingly smart” due to new programming initiatives bearing fruit as evidenced by recent ratings gains.

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