Lions Gate Prepares for Starz Merger With Beats on Revenue, Earnings

Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF) , which expects to close its $4.4 billion acquisition of premium cable channel Starz (STRZA)  within the next few weeks, positioned itself for becoming a integrated media company by reporting quarterly earnings that beat Wall Street estimates as it turned around its misfiring movie studio and continued to generate profits from its TV business.

The company reported a $17.5 million loss, or 12 cents per share, that took into account costs related to the acquisition and other charges. Wall Street expected a 25-cent loss for the quarter.

Liongate's quarterly revenue of $639.5 million, a 34% increase over a year ago, also beat Wall Street's consensus of $553.4 million.

Its stock closed at $19 on Thursday, down by 78 cents, or by nearly 4%. Lions Gate shares rose by more than 3% in after-hours trading.

"We achieved solid revenue gains across our core businesses, highlighted by another strong performance from our Television Group, in what we expect to be the last quarter for which we report Lionsgate financial results on a standalone basis,"  Chief Executive Officer Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. "We're making great progress in planning the integration of Starz and Lionsgate, and next quarter we expect to report combined numbers that will begin to reflect the scope of our vertically integrated global content platform, supported by strong free cash flow generation and a more diversified income stream."

Revenues increased by 31% at its movie studio, the company's largest unit, to $464.4 million on the strength of strong home entertainment sales of its hit Now You See Me 2 and international sales of its Mark Wahlberg film Deepwater Horizon.

The film studio turned around a small loss in the quarter a year ago to report a $6.6 million profit.

The company's film Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Holloween, which was No. 1 at the box office the last two weeks, was released after the end of the quarter and wasn't included in its current report, Lions Gate noted.

The company's television activities, which include production of the shows Orange is the New Black and Nashville, reported more than a doubling of its profits to $12.1 million. Its revenues increased by 43% to $175.1 million.

Lions Gate continues to lay the groundwork for its Starz merger. On Oct. 13, it announced it had priced a $520 million private placement and arranged a $2 billion credit facility to help finance the cash and stock transaction.

Starz said on Oct. 27 that it added 300,000 new subscribers for its premium TV channel, giving it a new high of 24.5 million subscribers. It also said it now provides streaming services to nearly 1 million subscribers thanks to a distribution agreement with Amazon's (AMZN) Prime Video service.

Revenue increased by 1% in its most recent quarter, Starz also said, although its operating income decreased by 27% to $74 million as it hiked spending to produce original programs.

"Starz's momentum is expected to continue and has boosted already high prospects for the combo," Macquarie Research analyst Amy Yong wrote in a note on Oct. 28 note. "Combined we believe  Lionsgate/Starz have a well-diversified mix of feature film, TV and library of content."

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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