Regal Entertainment Group is exploring a possible sale, a move that would dramatically alter the exhibition landscape.
Shares of the company shot up 12.14% to $23 after news hit that Regal might be on the auction block.
The blockbuster announcement came as quarterly revenues and profits fell sharply at the world’s largest theater chain as it struggled to ride out a summer box office downturn.
To soften the blow from its disappointing earnings announcement, the company said it was announcing a special cash dividend. But it was Regal’s announcement that its board of directors might flirt with selling the company as part of an “exploration of strategic alternatives” that might drive shareholder value that lifted its stock in after hours trading.
In the past Regal CEO Amy Miles has said that the company was a buyer, not a seller, in the ongoing consolidation of the country’s theater chains. Regal has 7,349 screens across 574 theaters, making it an attractive target for theater chains looking to dominate the domestic market or outside investors.
Regal’s chief competitor, AMC, sold to China’s Dalian Wanda Group for $2.6 billion in 2012.
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Regal’s shares may have soared, but its financial results were lackluster. Revenues at the Knoxville, Tenn. based circuit fell nearly 15% to $693.8 million for the quarter ending in September compared to total revenues of $813.1 million for the year-ago period. Net income plunged nearly 65% to $26.7 million, a steep drop from the $75.1 million the company reported in the third quarter of 2013.
The company reported earnings per share of 18 cents, compared with 38 cents for the same period a year ago, while EBITDA fell from $177.3 million to $122.1 million.
The results failed to hit Wall Street’s targets. Analysts projected the exhibition giant would post earnings of 20 cents per share and revenues of $724.1 million.
Overall, ticket sales for the industry were off 15% last summer with a few films such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” providing lone bright spots in what was a disappointing end to the summer blockbuster season.