No thorn in the paw

Lionsgate unfazed by Icahn investment

Lionsgate seems to view corporate raider Carl Icahn — who has amassed a hefty 4% stake in the indie studio — as more of a sympathetic investor than a takeover threat.

Asked about Icahn during an earnings call with Wall Streeters, Lionsgate chief exec Jon Feltheimer said his management team has been in touch with Icahn’s.

“We have had a number of conversations with the Icahns, and I think our sense is they believe our company is undervalued. I think they put a lot of value on our library, and we agree,” Feltheimer told analysts. “As a pure-play content company, we are greatly disadvantaged from an earnings point of view.”

Lionsgate execs also said they expect to make some announcement in the next eight to 10 weeks on the company’s new horror channel, which it hopes to launch this year. Studio is expected to take on a strategic partner in the venture, which is separate from the horror web Comcast and Sony are planning.

Lionsgate stock was up 31¢ to $8.97 Thursday after the company reported a strong fourth quarter following an otherwise difficult fiscal year.

Buoyed by theatrical and homevid revs from “Crash” and horror pics “Saw II” and “Hostel,” Lionsgate saw earnings shoot up 94% to $39 million for the three months ended in March. Revenue jumped 35% to $313 million.

Lionsgate expects to generate revenue of more than $900 million in fiscal 2007, including $250 million-$300 million in box office receipts. It said the film library will throw off $70 million in cash.

Lionsgate forecasts free cash flow of more than $85 million and pretax income of about $32 million.

Lionsgate’s fiscal year ends March 30.

In August, studio will release edgy feature “The Descent,” which it views as another potential horror franchise.

And the studio is hoping to earn the same sort of critical acclaim for Kevin Kline starrer “Trade” as it did for Academy Award best pic winner “Crash.” New film, which revolves around the sex trade business, bows this fall.

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