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Lionsgate stock up on upgrades, ‘Hunger’

Shares soar to highest price since 2008

Shares of Lionsgate soared 11% Wednesday in the wake of a bullish outlook for its “Hunger Games” franchise plus several analyst upgrades.

The stock gained $1.08 on the New York Stock Exchange to close at $10.83 — its highest price since 2008 — and then gained another 18¢ in after-hours trading.

Lionsgate’s stock price is now 25% higher than it was following the mini-major’s Jan. 13 announcement of its $412.5 million leveraged buyout of Summit Entertainment, bringing the “Hunger Games” and “Twilight” franchises together under the combined company.

Wednesday’s run-up came following a CNBC interview with Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns, who asserted that the popularity of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy portends a potentially strong reception when the first film opens March 23.

Burns said in the interview, broadcast after the market closed Tuesday, “I don’t want to hype any particular franchise, but the movie’s terrific.”

Recent analyst upgrades include Stifel Nicolaus from a “hold” to a “buy”; Evercore Partners upgraded from an “equal weight” to an “overweight”; and Miller Tabak from a “neutral” to a “buy.” Piper Jaffray reiterated an “overweight” rating and issued a $12 price target, and Hudson Square bumped its price target to $14 from $9.

In addition, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poors both disclosed last week that they were reviewing credit rating on Lionsgate for possible upgrades.

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