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AMC Stock: Sell on the Pounce?

AMC Entertainment (NYSE: AMC) gave shareholders nearly everything they wanted on Thursday. It posted second-quarter results that may have failed to exceed expectations but confirmed that its turnaround is succeeding on most fronts.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its operating-cash generated turned positive for the period. The country’s leading multiplex operator also announced a stock dividend that should shake out any potential fake or synthetic short positions in AMC. 

It wasn’t enough. The stock was trading more than 10% lower by Thursday night. 

There’s still a lot to like in AMC’s flawed but encouraging performance. The market may not have been initially impressed, but the stock has rallied sharply since bottoming out in the single digits back in May. Besides, if you’ve plopped yourself down at an AMC screening lately, you know that there’ll be plot twists until the final credits roll.

We’ve seen dramatic trading-day reversals at AMC before. Let’s take a closer look at the good and the not so good in Thursday’s developments. 

Image source: Getty Images.

Everything, everywhere all at once

AMC’s revenue rose 162% to $1.1664 billion. It’s a big move, but this was roughly in line with expectations.

We knew this would be a big step up for the exhibitor. Domestic box-office receipts for the industry in the second quarter soared 186%, compared to the weak slate in the springtime of last year. International exhibitors fared even better — an important point since 22% of AMC’s top-line results were international. 

Taking a deeper dive into its stateside operations, AMC lost market share — but this isn’t a deal-breaker. The number of tickets that AMC sold in the U.S. for the quarter rose 144%, and the average price paid per ticket climbed 5.7%. Stack one on top of the other, and you arrive at a 153% year-over-year increase, a big move but well below the national pop. This isn’t a failure on AMC’s part as much as it is smaller chains finally gaining momentum after false starts earlier in the pandemic cycle. 

The truly disappointing metric in terms of theater-level performance is that folks are starting to spend less after scanning their admissions to get into the local multiplex. The average food and beverage revenue per domestic patron has declined 5% over the past year, going from $7.91 to $7.52. The international drop is a more substantial 8% decline.

This also isn’t awful news. It was only natural for folks to overspend early last year, when returning to the movies after a long absence was a novelty. It’s still comfortably above pre-pandemic spending levels, and as long as it stabilizes here, AMC should be fine with this high-margin part of its business. 

AMC’s adjusted net loss — once you take out the gain from the early extinguishment of debt and the hit from the sharp drop in market value of its Hycroft Mining investment — clocks in at $102.8 million, or $0.20 a share. This is also roughly what analysts were modeling, but it’s still encouraging to see AMC’s adjusted bottom line generating less than a third of the red ink it was gushing a year earlier.

With its operating cash generated and adjusted EBITDA now firmly positive, AMC is in a better position to tackle its rising borrowing costs (because cash interest expense has climbed 60% over the past year).

Uncharted

In a move to bust the potential ring of fake short-sellers, AMC also declared a special dividend of an AMC Preferred share for every share outstanding. It will essentially be the equivalent of a 2-for-1 stock split, only the preferred stock will trade under the ticker symbol APE when it’s distributed in two weeks. 

The move is intended to smoke out illegal shorts, but once again, we had CEO Adam Aron tweeting on Thursday night that he’s seen no evidence of synthetic shorting of the multiplex operator. 

6. Candidly I’ve seen no evidence so-called fake or synthetic shares exist. But many of you disagree. This preferred equity dividend goes ONLY to company issued shares. So, it will have the impact of a “share count” or unique dividend many of you have sought. #TodayWePounce

— Adam Aron (@CEOAdam) August 4, 2022

Aron is giving some of the loudest retail shareholders what they want. As long as he also continues to give moviegoers what they want — and that’s just what we saw in the quarterly numbers — AMC should be fine as the top dog of movie-theater stocks

Rick Munarriz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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