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Stocks  | May 18, 2021

Coronavirus knocked AMC Entertainment (AMC) to the mat -- but it's not out of the fight yet.

Saved by the fortuitous arrival of a "Twitter mob" of Reddit-informed, Robinhood-powered daytraders who kept its stock alive when value investors had given it up for dead back in January, AMC kept its head above water long enough to cash in this week.

As the company announced last Thursday, it has successfully completed the sale of 43 million shares, sold "at-the-market" price. AMC has raised $428 million to bolster the balance sheet. And luckily for AMC -- and thanks to all those day trading momentum investors -- the market price for AMC stock is now nearly $14 a share, or about seven times the mere $2.01 a share it was fetching at the start of 2021.

And one analyst believes AMC could even be worth more than $14.

B. Riley analyst Eric Wold reiterated a Buy rating on AMC shares along with a $16 price target. This figure implies ~15% upside for the year ahead.

Wold believes that AMC probably has enough cash that it won't need to raise any more "before industry trends recover in 2022/2023" -- although it still has the option "to take strategic actions to improve the balance sheet further."

Indeed, the analyst says AMC now has "at least a one-year cash runway" at current levels of movie attendance (and probably longer than that, given that attendance is improving).

Wold describes AMC's decision to raise cash this month as "opportunistic" rather than "necessary," and notes that the company has taken other steps to bolster its balance sheet, including renegotiating its property lease terms to take into account diminished attendance at its theaters during the pandemic. At the same time, the analyst believes AMC has an "improved cash flow outlook" this year, predicting a "box office recovery into year-end," which will yield more revenues to cover the company's expenses.

Already, says Wold, both New York and California, two of the biggest markets for movie-watching, have more or less eliminated capacity restrictions on theater attendance. And this lifting of restrictions coincides with the arrival of "pent-up demand for moviegoing" among viewers who've been essentially locked out of theaters for the past year. Wold describes the slate of blockbuster movies coming out this summer as "impressive," and says the release dates for these films have "begun to stabilize in recent weeks," which should make it easier to predict the box office hauls that AMC might anticipate as the year progresses.

Running the numbers, Wold estimates that U.S. box office numbers will be down 70% in Q2 2021 (relative to 2019 levels), but down only 35% in Q3 (the summer quarter), and down only 20% in Q4 (the winter quarter). In dollars and cents, the analyst says this should translate to nearly $2.5 billion in revenues this year, nearly doubling to $4.7 billion in 2022, and then growing about 15% to $5.4 billion in 2023. By that point, AMC should be almost back in the black, losing only $0.35 per share in fiscal 2023.

In contrast to Wold, the Street remains unconvinced. AMC stock has a Hold consensus rating, based on 3 Holds, 2 Sells, and only 1 Buy. The forecast is for ~49% downside, given the average price target stands at $7.13.

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