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Moody’s reviews Lionsgate credit rating

Summit purchase could put studio in better financial shape

Moody’s Investors Service is reviewing its credit rating on Lionsgate for a possible upgrade following its $412.5 million leveraged buyout of Summit Entertainment.

Moody’s made the disclosure Friday, two days after Standard & Poors announced it was considering an upgrade of Lionsgate’s rating, saying the purchase of Summit could put the studio on a sounder financial footing.

Moody’s said the acquisition could generate significant cost savings and also diversify its revenue stream with the addition of the successful “Twilight” franchise.

“We believe the acquisition has potential positive credit implications for Lionsgate, and during the review, we will assess its strategic and financial impact,” Moody’s said. “We believe it could result in significant cost savings and will help diversify Lionsgate’s revenue stream by adding the successful Twilight franchise which has highly visible cash flow through 2013.”

Moody’s rates Lionsgate at B2 and gave the minimajor a positive outlook in 2010. S&P placed its “B-” corporate credit rating on what’s called “CreditWatch with positive implications” and predicted the deal could end up reducing Lionsgate’s debt “meaningfully.”

Wall Streeters expect Summit’s “Twilight” franchise to inject half a billion dollars of fresh cash into Lionsgate over the next five years.

Lionsgate shares bounced higher following the Jan. 13 deal announcement, closing Thursday at $9.48. They retreated Friday by 11 cents to $9.36 but have still gained 9% in the five post-deal sessions.

Liosngate announced Friday that Summit toppers Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger had agreed to run the movie division of Lionsgate.

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