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AMC Shares Rise as New Meme-Stock Favorite Returns to Form

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(Bloomberg) — AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. resumed its upward trajectory in premarket trading Monday, halting two days of declines for the money-losing movie theater chain that’s become the new favorite of meme-stock investors.

The stock traded at $49.35 as of 8:17 a.m. in New York, up 3% from Friday’s close. Shares more than doubled on the first two days of a holiday-shortened last week, before giving back some of those gains after insiders cashed in with a flurry of share sales.

On the brink of bankruptcy only a few months ago, AMC is now the darling of retail traders, with this year’s 2,200% gain ranking as the most of any stock in the Russell 3000 Index. The stock’s surge has enabled the company to sell equity and shore up its shaky balance sheet. AMC is building a “strategic war chest,” B Riley analyst Eric Wold wrote in a note.

“In addition to our continued expectation that AMC could improve its balance sheet and future cash flows through debt repurchases/pay-downs, we could now see either acquisitions of smaller exhibitor chains or the takeover of leases from troubled chains,” he said.

A forthcoming reshuffle of the Russell Indexes could pose a problem for the likes of AMC and GameStop Corp., which started the meme stock craze back in January. Their enlarged market caps of $24.6 billion and $18.4 billion, respectively, put them in line for a move from the Russell 2000 small-cap stock index to the Russell 1000 index of the biggest American companies.

“The graduation of these high-fliers could be the beginning of the end of their epic run,” Wells Fargo analysts Christopher Harvey, Gary Liebowitz and Anna Han wrote in a note Friday.

(Updates with premarket trading and analyst commentary beginning in third paragraph)

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