Top movie theater operator AMC Entertainment has retired $35 million in high-interest debt, the latest step in its effort to stage a financial comeback from Covid-19 and keep pace with a fast-evolving movie business model.
The repurchase of the secured notes, which carried an interest rate of 15% for cash and 17% for payment-in-kind, reduced the company’s annual interest cost by $5.25 million, the company said. About $65 million of the high-interest notes remain on the books, and AMC as of June 30 reported about $5.2 billion in total corporate borrowings. The debt is structured so that only about $635 million of that must be repaid before 2024.
The devastation of Covid-19, which shuttered production and kept movie theaters closed for months, cut off virtually all revenue for AMC during a grueling stretch. A funny thing happened on the way to presumed insolvency, however — the company’s shares became retail investor darlings, along with those of GameStop and other “meme” stocks. The Reddit-fueled upswing enabled the company to funnel proceeds into righting the ship. This year has brought positive news in terms of the general reopening of retail businesses, the return of full-scale film production and the rollout of vaccines. AMC shares today climbed 7% to $38.06. One year ago, they traded at less than $5.
“The repurchase of some of our highest cost debt is one of the many steps that we are taking to optimally position AMC for the future,” CEO Adam Aron said. “In addition to reducing our interest-bearing debt, we are also using our enhanced liquidity and improving business fundamentals to make meaningful reductions in deferred rent obligations. At the same time, we continue to take steps to improve our operating results and we are capitalizing on opportunities to grow and enhance our business.”
In its quarterly report in August, AMC said it had cash and cash equivalents of about $1.8 billion.
Aron noted some moves the company has made of late, including boosting alternative programming in megaplexes, planning to accept cryptocurrency by year-end, and enlisting Nicole Kidman for a major, come-back-to-the-movies marketing campaign. “This all comes at a time when we believe that the upcoming movie slate is incredibly exciting, and studios currently seem to be re-committing to an exclusive theatrical window,” Aron said.