Summit buy, 'Hunger Games' prospects energize Street

Shares of Lionsgate jumped again Tuesday to close at an all-time high on Wall Street’s bullishness over the mini-major’s leveraged buyout of Summit and strong prospects for its “The Hunger Games” franchise.

Lionsgate stock closed up 2% , rising 28¢ to $12.32, with 1.96 million shares changing hands — two times average volume over the past three months. The stock had risen 7% on Feb. 10 and again on Feb. 15, when it hit a previous high of $12.16, in the wake of multiple analyst upgrades.

The stock is now 43% above its $8.60 price on Jan. 13, the day Lionsgate closed the $412.5 million Summit buyout deal. It’s more than doubled in price from a year ago, when the issue was held down by Lionsgate’s ongoing battle with investor Carl Icahn.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Benjamin Mogil, who has a buy rating on the stock, said Tuesday that preliminary tracking on “Hunger Games” was “very strong.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the pic “appears to likely to deliver” on the goal of becoming the successor to the merged company’s “Twilight” franchise, pointing to early market research indicating it’s likely to exceed the box office results of the first “Twilight” film, which generated $192 million domestically and $190 million on the foreign side.

Advance ticket sales for “The Hunger Games,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, begin Wednesday in advance of the March 23 opening.

Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer pointed out earlier this month that total sales of the Suzanne Collins’ book trilogy have grown by 7.5% during the past quarter to 23.5 million. Lionsgate plans to open “Catching Fire,” based on the second “Hunger Games” title, in November 2013.

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