Tuesday's Top Upgrades (and Downgrades)

Analysts shift stance on AMC Networks, AMC Entertainment, and Cinemark.

Mar 18, 2014 at 1:35PM

This series, brought to you by Yahoo! Finance, looks at which upgrades and downgrades make sense and which ones investors should act on. Today, our headlines give us a great chance to remind readers that there's a difference between AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX) and AMC Entertainment (NYSE:AMC) -- and what that difference is -- while in a continuation of the theme, we'll also get a chance to take a glance at Cinemark (NYSE:CNK). Without further ado...

AMC Networks, the cable network
Companies with too-similar names (Sysco and Cisco or, more recently, Twitter and TWTR Inc.), have a way of confusing small investors. Today, we want to thank analysts at Maxim Group (who just upped their price target on AMC Networks) and at FBR Capital (who just upped their price target on AMC Entertainment) for giving us a chance to lay out the two stocks side by side and explain the differences.

Simply put, one of these companies is a movie theater chain, now owned by China. The other is a television network that brings us shows like The Walking Dead and Mad Men. AMC Networks is the latter.

This morning, Maxim Group increased its price target on AMC Networks from $84 to $90. The analyst was already recommending buying the stock, but now it seems Maxim likes AMC Networks even more -- and it's not alone. Last week, we saw analysts at Bernstein make a similar move, upping their price target to $93 in response to strong Q4 results and a belief that the company will continue to grow earnings by syndicating its popular original content on other channels.

Investors had better hope the analysts are right, though, because it's priced at 19 times trailing earnings. But with a projected growth rate of only 18% annually over the next five years, AMC Networks stock is starting to look a bit pricey. Meanwhile, this formerly rich cash producer has taken a turn toward producing red ink on its cash flow statement, which now shows negative free cash flow of nearly $74 million over the past 12 months.

Long story short, I'm a great fan of AMC's serialized horror show The Walking Dead, but AMCX stock is also starting to look like a bit of a disaster.

AMC Entertainment, the movie theater chain
Moving on now to AMC Networks' doppelganger: AMC Entertainment also saw its price target lifted today, this time by FBR Capital. As related on StreetInsider.com, FBR started today's note on an off note, warning that the "1Q14 domestic industry box office ... will grow 7% year over year, versus our former assumption of up 12%." That doesn't sound like such great news for a movie theater company.

However, FBR predicts that AMC Entertainment will "outperform the industry in box office per-screen growth" by about "150 bps in 1Q14." Meanwhile, the analyst expects to see net loss carry-forwards benefit the company on the bottom line (by reducing income taxes).

All of this adds up to a new $29 price target on the stock, in FBR's opinion, and a reiterated "outperform" rating. But does AMC Entertainment deserve it?

I don't think so. Priced at 25 times trailing free cash flow, this movie theater chain would have to show strong, double-digit growth rates going forward in order to deserve even its current valuation -- much less the $29 target price FBR is assigning. But while analysts who follow the stock all appear to be projecting 48% annualized earnings growth, I personally don't see how that could occur in the slow-growth movie theater industry.

Cinemark, the other movie theater chain
Why not? Well, consider the example of Cinemark, AMC's rival, and a stock that FBR decided to cut its price target on this morning (to $36). Most analysts think Cinemark will grow earnings at only 15% annually over the next five years -- a respectable growth rate, to be sure, but a far cry from the "48% growth" number being bandied about for AMC Entertainment. Now, maybe AMC Entertainment is a better business than Cinemark. But is it three times better? (Hint: I don't think so.)

FBR warns that weak Q1 box office receipts at Cinemark, combined with foreign exchange rate earnings from the company's international operations, will create a headwind for the company's profits this quarter.

Cinemark is priced similarly to AMC Entertainment, selling for 23 times GAAP earnings. Its free cash flow, however, is notably weaker at only $50 million (about half the cash profits at AMC Entertainment). As a result, Cinemark sells for a steep 68 times free cash flow. Given the valuation, FBR is clearly right about Cinemark stock being a worse bargain than AMC Entertainment. But I think it's a difference of degrees only: Cinemark is a horrible stock, but AMC Entertainment, while less horrible, still is not a good buy.

In short: I wouldn't buy either one of them.

Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned, and doesn't always agree with his fellow Fools. Case in point: The Motley Fool still recommends AMC Networks.


1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers