BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Analysts are giving a thumbs-up to the outlook for Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) , an independent film and TV studio, after billionaire investor Carl Icahn gave up on his tenacious takeover bid.
Investors aren't as excited. Lions Gate shares are down 6.7% today to $7.02, bringing the year's gain to 16%.
The company, which has a $1 billion market value, is the maker of such hits as the television series
and the movie "Saw." It releases up to 20 motion pictures per year, which includes films developed in-house, as well as those acquired from third parties.
An agreement between the 75-year-old Icahn and the company's board has been raging since December, after he tried to wrest control of the company with a $7.50-per-share buyout offer. But Lions Gate gathered enough board votes to hold Icahn at bay, and then he sued, but finally agreed to sell his shares back to the company at $7 per share, roughly what he paid for them.
The parties also agreed to end all litigation, according to a joint statement issued yesterday by Icahn and Lions Gate.
Piper Jaffray analyst James March writes in a research note today that Icahn's walk-away is "positive" for the company and its shares for a number of reasons: "It provides a path to resolve the potential overhang of Icahn's position, it demonstrates management's bullishness by purchasing its own shares, it removes risk of outstanding litigation, it effectively closes the book on Icahn's disruptive attempt to take control of Lions Gate, and should also help increase the effective liquidity of the shares over time."
"We would be buyers on any weakness and maintain our overweight rating and $12 price target," Piper Jaffray said.
Piper Jaffray notes that there will be short-term pressure on the stock ahead of the sale of 22 million share stake held by Ichan, "but the move does not impact the improving fundamentals of the Lions Gate story," and even mitigates some outstanding risks if he had become the top shareholder.
Wunderlich Securities also applauded the deal, essentially saying it lifted a cloud from over the organization. It now gives it a "buy" rating and $10 price target as of Aug. 31.
Among the key points supporting that view, Wunderlich said, is that all litigation and new claims are now dismissed, so management can focus on creating new franchises and programming.
"(Lions Gate's) generally economically insulated outlook includes a film pipeline led by pop-culture hit
The Hunger Games
, an upcoming series based on the best-selling trilogy of teen novels, as well as a strong creative run in the TV (industry), led by
, a highly successful show, said the firm's research note.
BMO Capital Markets says the change is a "positive" but said it will maintain its current $7 price target and "market perform" rating "until the transactions close and the stock trades on its fundamental merits."
rating grade on its shares is a "hold," based on analysts' views from before Icahn's announcement was made after the market closed Tuesday.
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