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Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (LGF), The Walt Disney Company (DIS): The Movie Business Is Risky, But Might Pay Off in the End

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One of the biggest names in film and TV entertainment, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF) has grown tremendously over the past decade, with revenues up by more than 400% in that period. However, the company has a pretty poor record of profitability, posting losses in eight out of the past 10 years, and hasn’t turned a profit since 2007. With some successful acquisitions, and some even more successful new film franchises, analysts are projecting that the company will finally get its act together and start making some money. Is this turnaround candidate worth taking a chance on?

**Note: fiscal year 2013’s revenues include the recent Summit acquisition

About Lions Gate

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF) owns a film and television library of over 13,000 titles, including the Saw franchise, the Tyler Perry films, and TV shows Mad Men and Weeds. Their largest recent success has been with the first Hunger Games film, the sequel of which is due to be released in November, and is already expected to be a massive hit.

The company plans to release around 20 films this year, including the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire. Lions Gate also currently produces and/or syndicates 19 TV shows, a number it plans to increase in upcoming years.

Most of the company’s growth has been through acquisitions, including Trimark in 2000, Artisan Entertainment in 2003, and Mandate Pictures in 2007, just to name a few notable ones. Recently, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF) acquired Summit Entertainment, which produced 31 films in the past four years, including the very successful Twilight series.

The Numbers: Not So Great…

One glance at Lions Gate’s earnings would make most investors head for the hills immediately. Despite rapidly rising revenues, Lions Gate only managed to turn a profit in two of the past 10 years.

However, the forecast calls for pretty rapid earnings growth over the next few years, due to such factors as the improving economy, synergies from the Summit acquisition, and increased income from their key franchises over the coming years. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF) lost 30 cents per share last year, but is expected to finish this year in the green with earnings of $0.93 per share. This number is projected to grow to $1.34 and $1.69 per share in 2014 and 2015, respectively. While a traditional P/E analysis is meaningless here, trading for 16.2 times 2015’s earnings with the kind of growth rate that’s expected sounds pretty decent.

Alternatives

As an alternative to Lions Gate, investors could choose another comparably sized entertainment company such as Dreamworks Animation Skg Inc (NASDAQ:DWA) or a large, more diversified media conglomerate such as The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS).

DreamWorks, whose franchises include Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda, produces computer-generated animated films. As an investment, it looks better on paper than Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (USA) (NYSE:LGF), having turned a profit for nine out of the last 10 years, and is projected to return to profitability this year after a less-than-stellar 2012. Using the 2015 numbers to look to the future, like I did above, Dreamworks Animation Skg Inc (NASDAQ:DWA) is projected to earn $1.27 per share that year, meaning that it trades for 17.3 times 2015’s earnings, a slight premium to Lions Gate.

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