UPDATE 1-MGM says "Skyfall," "Hobbit" helped 2012 profit more than triple
By Ronald Grover
LOS ANGELES, March 18 (Reuters) - MGM, the storied movie studio that exited bankruptcy protection in 2010, posted a more than a three-fold increase in 2012 net income, the company said on Monday.
Blockbuster hits "Skyfall" and "The Hobbit" bolstered its profit last year to $129.2 million, from $35.2 million in 2011, it said in a statement.
The studio behind the James Bond franchise is considering an initial public offering, three people familiar with the process said last week. It was scheduled to be on the board's March 18 agenda, they said. Two of the sources said the board is being advised by Goldman Sachs Group Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co on a possible IPO.
There was no mention of the board's discussion in MGM's statement. A spokeswoman had no comment.
A conference call with MGM investors is scheduled for March 19.
MGM is riding a hot streak at the box office that might set the stage for an IPO, taking public the 88-year-old studio synonymous with the golden age of Hollywood and responsible for such classics as "Gone with the Wind" and "The Wizard of OZ."
"Skyfall" and "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" together generated worldwide ticket sales of $2.1 billion, according to the website Box Office Mojo. MGM partnered with other studios in making the films.
Those hits helped hike revenue by 97 percent to $1.4 billion in 2012, the company said in a statement.
"After two years of turning around the company and reinvigorating the studio, the time is right to do an IPO and broaden the shareholder base," Steve Azarbad, co-founder and portfolio manager with Maglan Capital, said before the board meeting. His firm invests in distressed assets and owns 1 percent of MGM.
The company has a library of about 4,100 older films and 10,800 TV episodes, it said in its 2010 bankruptcy filing.
Its pipeline of films to be released over the next two years includes two more "Hobbit" movies and a remake of its 1987 hit "Robocop," the company has previously said.
The Los Angeles-based company also controls the Bond franchise and has tentatively scheduled another installment in 2014 with "Skyfall" writer John Logan working on a script, according to the movie website IMDB.
MGM owns a stake in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," starring Dwayne Johnson and Channing Tatum, which Paramount is scheduled to distribute on March 29, the studio said.
In August, the company bought 17.6 million of its shares from investor Carl Icahn for $33.50 per share, according to a report to its shareholders last year. The $590.4 million acquisition valued the company at around $2.4 billion.
Employees and others hold options to nearly 9.7 million with an average exercise price of $36.85, the company also said.
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