Starz Shares Rise in First Trading Day

Starz, a rival to HBO and Showtime in the premium-cable channel market, rose 9.8 percent on its first day of trading after being broken off from Liberty Media Corp. in a spinoff.

Starz’s Class A stock gained $1.39 to $15.59 at the close in New York. Shares of the Englewood, Colorado-based company trade under the ticker STRZA on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The company, which owns the Starz, Encore and Movieplex channels, has a total of about 55 million TV subscribers, who typically pay an additional monthly fee. Like its premium-cable rivals, Starz began as a movie network and then added original programming, including the gladiator series “Spartacus.”

Liberty Media Chief Executive Officer Greg Maffei, who remains a director on Starz’s board, signaled in September that he sees it as a takeover candidate. He said a bigger cable network group, with its own distribution channels and content, “might be able to do more” with Starz.

The spinoff makes a deal more probable, helping maximize the business’s value for investors, John Tinker, an analyst at Maxim Group LLC in New York, said in a note to clients. He has a buy rating on the shares, with a price target of $21.

Still, the company didn’t renew a contract for Walt Disney Co. film rights beyond 2015, potentially crimping the supply of movies that air on its channels. That has hurt Starz’s takeover prospects, Bryan Kraft, an analyst at Evercore Partners Inc. in New York, said in a note last week. Disney is opting to work with Netflix Inc. instead.

Deal’s Likelihood

“The growth outlook has weakened, and the probability of Starz being acquired has lessened,” said Kraft, who values the company at $10 a share.

In the wake of losing the Disney contract, Starz is refocusing on original programming -- a strategy that makes the business model riskier, Kraft said. The company canceled its heavily promoted Kelsey Grammer series “Boss” after ratings declined.

Liberty Media, also based in Englewood, owns a range of media, communications and entertainment assets, including stakes in Sirius XM Radio Inc., Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc. Liberty Media shares fell less than 1 percent to $109.60 today.

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