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Lionsgate Stock Roars On Upgrade

'Hunger Games,' 'Divergent' cited in upgrade

Lionsgate stock keeps roaring, setting another all-time high thanks to more Wall Street bullishness over its TV business and its young-adult franchises, such as “The Hunger Games.”

The stock jumped 4% on Thursday, rising $1.11 to $27.66. The stock has nearly doubled in price this year and more than tripled its $8.60 price when Lionsgate acquired Summit for $412.5 million in January, 2012.

James March of Piper Jaffray boosted his price target to $32 from $27 and raised his EBITDA estimate to $104 million from $86 million for its fourth quarter ended March 31, citing “more confidence” in “Twilight” DVD sales and international box office, more “Anger Management” and “Nashville” episode deliveries, and revenue from Netflix related to season 5 of “Mad Men.”

“We continue to see plenty of momentum at Lionsgate, with a strong slate, improving television business and upside to our earnings forecasts,” Marsh added. “We think the key to the shares’ performance from here is demonstrating that the company can build off of its success with ‘Hunger Games’ and create and extend additional franchises.”

Marsh noted that two potential franchises (“Ender’s Game” and “Divergent”) are set for release in the next nine months and added that he’s comfortable that management will find a way to extend the ‘Twilight’ franchise.

“While Hunger Games’ success is seemingly baked into the shares to some, we see substantial upside driven by international box office and high margin merchandising opportunities,” he added.

Lionsgate announced at Cannes that it had generated $250 million in foreign sales at the market for nine upcoming films, including the final two movies in the “Hunger Games” franchise. Marsh said the disclosure indicates that Lionsgate is becoming equivalent in status to the other six Hollywood majors.

“We believe these deals represent long-term confidence in Lionsgate’s slate well into 2015, enabling it to capture 35% of its international box office (up from 20% previously) and bringing the company nearly in-line with major studios,” he noted.

“Ender’s Game” debuts Nov. 1 and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, opens a few weeks later on Nov. 22. “Divergent,” starring Shailene Woodley, opens March 21.

Lionsgate is set to release its next quarterly earnings report on May 30.

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