Lionsgate thrives sans Icahn angst

Stock rising without corporate uncertainty

Six months ago, Lionsgate settled its long-running dispute with Carl Icahn by cashing out his 33% stake for $309 million or $7 a share.

The stock’s now nearly doubled in value. It went on a tear last week, rising 15% and hitting four consecutive all-time highs to end the week at $13.91 amid Street optimism over young-adult franchises “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight.”

Most of the rise has come since Jan. 13, when Lionsgate completed its $412.5 million leveraged buyout of Summit. Shares were trading at $8.60 and have risen 62% since.

The previous three years, Icahn’s involvement served as a ceiling on the stock price due to uncertainty over how his investment would play out. Icahn launched a series of tender offers priced between $6 and $7.50, all rejected by Lionsgate’s board as undervaluing the company.

So the recent price rise may be partially attributable to Wall Street returning to normal valuation of the stock following the close of a tumultuous period that saw Icahn blast Lionsgate management repeatedly for overspending and failing to boost the stock price to anywhere near its 2007 high of $12. Relations between Lionsgate and the billionaire went sour in 2009.

Lionsgate repeatedly accused Icahn of being an incompetent meddler. The battle featured multiple lawsuits and culminated in December 2010, when Icahn’s rival slate of director candidates failed to gain enough traction for a takeover. Under Lionsgate’s deal with Icahn, the two sides agreed to dismiss all outstanding litigation between them and release all claims they may have had against each other.

Price of Lionsgate stock gradually increased late last year as word began spreading that it was exploring a deal to buy Summit. Since the deal closed, several analysts have upgraded their ratings and price targets since then.

Last week’s run-up saw several development contributing to the bullish outlook including sales of 5 million units of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” in its first 11 days.

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