Will The Curtain Close On AMC Entertainment?

The survival of the world’s largest movie theater chain appears to be hanging in the balance, as the novel coronavirus pandemic keeps box offices shuttered across the country.

Since Leawood, Kansas-headquartered AMC Entertainment Holdings (NYSE: AMC) closed the doors on all its domestic locations in mid-March, the theatrical exhibition company has suffered mammoth losses in its stock price and outstanding bonds.

AMC announced March 17 that all its theaters would close for at least six to 12 weeks, with some speculation that any reopening could begin as late as mid-June.

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Cinema stocks sink

The closures were said to have spurred layoffs of around 26,000 employees, including 600 of its corporate staff, as well as AMC CEO Adam Aron.

AMC was already saddled with a heavy debt burden and challenges in raising new debt prior to the adverse impacts from the virus.

To help steer its global presence, for example, AMC had embarked on a buying spree, including its purchase of Nordic Cinema Group in early 2017, which helped drive the company’s leverage up to roughly 7.0x.

As of year-end 2019, the theater exhibitor’s balance sheet remained highly levered at about 6.6x, with a negative free cash flow position of around -US$23m, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

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AMC bonds discounts

In fact, AMC’s ability to tap the debt markets had been further impaired after Moody’s recently cut its credit rating by one notch to ‘B3’ from ‘B2,’ impacting around US$4.5bn worth of its debt.

Moody’s analyst Gregory Fraser noted that the primary risk to AMC over the short-run would be a prolonged outbreak of COVID-19, “causing its theatres to remain closed for an extended period beyond June coupled with an exhaustion of its existing sources of liquidity and an inability to timely access new liquidity sources to cover the cash burn into Q3 2020.

“To the extent, the U.S. emergency economic relief bill for cinema operators as currently drafted is passed and signed into law, this could improve AMC’s ability to access additional credit lines from its banks if this becomes necessary.”

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The author does not hold any positions in the financial instruments referenced in the materials provided.

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