Shares of theater operator Cineplex Odeon soared Wednesday following a positive report on the company on cable channel CNBC.
Cineplex, which opened at $ 2.75 a share, traded as high as $ 3.25 before closing Wednesday at $ 3, a 9% gain.
Trading volume was extremely heavy with 3,152,700 shares changing hands. That’s more than 15 times the stock’s average daily trading volume of 203,715 shares.
CNBC financial reporter Dan Dorfman quoted company officials as saying the company has “turned around,” even though Cineplex did not provide earnings projections.
Cineplex VP of marketing and communications Howard Lichtman recently outlined a similar story for Daily Variety. He noted that the company went cash-flow positive in 1992, a first since it began restructuring in September 1989.
“You’re looking at a $ 47 million cash-flow swing that went from about $ 46 million negative cash flow in 1990 to positive $ 982,000 in 1992,” Lichtman said. “We did that within an industry structure that hasn’t been great the last two years both in terms of both product and attendance.”
Lichtman said the company effectively has lowered its costs of operations, which in turn lowers its break-even level. “We’re well poised to take full benefit in any increase in box office.”
Industry sources have predicted this summer’s box office take could set a record simply because of the huge volume of films being released.
As the second-largest theater chain in North America, Cineplex Odeon looks well-positioned to cash in on “Jurassic Park,””Last Action Hero” and other big-budget offerings. Cineplex effectively has exclusive rights to both films in Canada.
By selling assets and issuing stock, Cineplex also has taken major steps in reducing its debt load, which stood as high as $ 700 million. Today it’s at $ 380 million; by the end of 1993, the company projects it will be down to $ 330 million.
The company also has firmed up its banking relationships. Its new bank deal relaxes its repayment schedule and financial covenants through December 1996.
Lichtman said the support of the company’s two largest shareholders — MCA owns 43%, and Charles Bronfman, who owns 26% — remains solid.
Analyst Steve Garmaise of Toronto-based First Marathon Securities Ltd., who has a buy recommendation on the stock, believes the picture is brightening for Cineplex.
He is projecting cash flow will increase to $ 29 million this year, to $ 52 million in 1994 and $ 77 million in 1995. And most of those funds will be available to pay down debt, since Cineplex’s circuit is quite modern and does not require substantial capital expenditures.