(Bloomberg) -- AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., the world’s largest theater chain, rose to a four-month high after its army of small investors embraced a new class of preferred equity the company is distributing.
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The stock gained 19% to $22.18 at the close in New York on Friday after initially falling following the announcement of the new units on Thursday. The preferred shares will trade under the “APE” ticker on the New York Stock Exchange starting Aug. 22.
AMC has had a dizzying few years, starting with a pandemic-related revenue collapse in 2020 that brought the chain to the brink of bankruptcy. The company was partly saved by small investors who call themselves apes and gather on Reddit message boards, Twitter and YouTube to pump up the stock. They’ve been touting the shares again since Thursday night.
“We officially pounced,” one participant posted on Reddit. “Words can’t express my happiness right now.” Said another: “I just bought ten more shares today.”
The market reacted to AMC’s preferred equity plan with skepticism at first. In 2021 the company tried and failed to issue more common stock. Executives, led by Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron, regrouped over the past year and realized they could instead issue preferred stock to raise capital. Shareholders had given the company the authorization to do so in 2013, before Aron was CEO.
AMC will give every common shareholder a preferred equity unit as a dividend. Later in August, those units will start trading and investors can buy and sell them normally. The company can also issue new APE shares to raise money, Aron said in an interview after the company’s earnings call. That could help it pay down some $10 billion in debt and lease obligations, and buy other theater chains.
The new equity “immensely lessens any survival risk as we continue to work our way through this pandemic,” Aron said in a letter to shareholders.
While many small investors liked the idea, analyst reaction was mixed. Some expressed concern about potential dilution from the new shares, others said it could provide an attractive way to reduce debt.
“It is complicated,” Aron wrote in a self-described “tweetstorm” about the dividend on Twitter, “but it really is satisfying to play 3-D chess.”
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