Shares of Lionsgate slid 12% Friday to an eight-month low after the company told analysts that its previously expected growth would be pushed back a year.
Shares declined by $3.76 to $26.81 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. It was the lowest close since June 20, when the issue closed at $26.61.
CEO Jon Feltheimer said in the earnings conference call on Thursday that the company was on track to meet expectations for the current fiscal year, which ends March 31.
“As we continue to add scale to our platform by investing in talent and content continue to expand Starz internationally and ramp up our emerging businesses,” he said. “The growth we had originally anticipated in fiscal 2019 will likely be pushed back a year to fiscal 2020. We expect this increased investment in content to lead to greater returns for our shareholders, as well as enabling us to resume our strong growth trajectory.”
KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Evan Wingren downgraded Lionsgate from Overweight to Sector Weight.
“Although we think Lionsgate should continue to trade at a premium to ad-supported cable network peers, even accounting for this on lower estimates, we struggle to justify upside for a more positive view,” the analyst said in a Friday note.
Wingren also said Lionsgate’s investments in original content promise uncertain payoff as programming competition increases. Lionsgate bought Starz in 2016 for $4.4 billion.
Lionsgate reported higher earnings of $193 million, or 87 cents a share, for its third quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a $30.6 million loss in the same quarter last year. The studio cited strong performances from its motion picture segment and its Starz premium cable network along with a tax break. It easily beat analyst forecasts of Lionsgate earning 25 cents a share during the latest quarter.
Revenues gained 52% to $1.14 billion — again far above the Wall Street consensus of $1.08 billion. Net income included a one-time income tax benefit of $165 million reflecting the impact of the lower U.S. income tax rate under the new tax laws on net deferred tax liabilities.
The stock rose to above $35 a share between Jan. 19 and 26 following speculation that Lionsgate could be a takeover target for potential buyers including Amazon, Verizon, and a combined CBS-Viacom.
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