Shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. soared Monday, after B. Riley analyst Eric Wold said it’s time to buy, citing an improving balance sheet outlook and as a strong opening weekend for ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ pointed to a resurgence in demand.
Wold raised his rating to buy from neutral, and boosted his price target to $13, which was 22.5% above Monday’s closing price, from $7.
“We have remained impressed with management’s ability to weather the pandemic headwinds by both strengthening the balance sheet and negotiating with landlords to improve the cash runway into 2022,” Wold wrote in a note to clients. “And as the largest exhibitor in North America that also operates the highest number of IMAX screens, we view AMC as well positioned to benefit from the industry’s projected resurgence and return to pre-pandemic attendance levels by 2023.”
The upgrade comes after what Wold said was an “impressive” opening weekend domestic box office for Warner Bros.’s “Godzilla vs. Kong.” Warner Bros. is owned by AT&T Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.03% WarnerMedia.
Wold said that although the North American theater base is only about 60% open, and with seating capacity limitations averaging from 25% to 50%, the movie still took in about $48.5 million in domestic box office revenue. That compares with the $47.8 million that “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” opened with in May 2019.
“We believe consumers want to leave the house and return to the theater, and these results are very telling, especially considering that the movie was available for free to HBO Max subscribers at the same time as the theatrical release,” Wold wrote.
AMC investors have been subjected to a roller-coaster ride in recent months, as the stock was caught up in the trading frenzy surrounding heavily shorted stocks, which included shares of GameStop Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203755179/composite GME -0.78%
The selloff over the past two weeks followed a five-week win streak in which the stock rocketed 149.2%. That win streak came after the stock lost more than half its value (57.8%) in two weeks, after soaring 525.5% in January.
The stock closed Monday 46.7% below the more-than two-year closing high of $19.90 on Jan. 27, but had still gained 400.5% year to date, while the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.07% has gained 8.6% over the same time.
B. Riley’s Wold said that his only concern with AMC, and the reason for the previous neutral rating, was that the company’s high levels of debt could put a strain on future cash flows.
“However, with management increasingly signaling the ability and willingness to utilize equity to reduce the debt load, we can now be more constructive on the upside opportunity for the shares,” Wold wrote.