'Expendables' ups Lionsgate price target

Wunderlich says value could be in $15-plus vicinity by 2012

TORONTO -- Banish Carl Icahn's lowball bid of $6.50 per share.

Matthew Harrigan of Wunderlich Securities on Monday slapped a buy rating and an $8.50 price target on Lionsgate stock after "The Expendables" raked in $35 million on its opening weekend.

Calling Icahn's bid "very inadequate" and a "huge distraction," Harrigan argued Vancouver-based Lionsgate is onto a winner with "The Expendables," having paid $20 million for the U.S. and U.K. rights.

He added Stallone is already talking sequel, and the 1980s-style actioner has an ensemble cast that appeals to boomers and female filmgoers.

"Apart from Sly's and Lionsgate's adroitness in guerilla movie marketing, the indie also remains the studio outlier on digital media conversion," Harrigan wrote in his research note.

"We believe that 2012 private market value could be in the $15-plus vicinity despite what we view as a now-extended lowball $6.50 bid from Carl Icahn," he added.

Stock in Lionsgate was down three cents to $6.32 on the New York Stock Exchange at midday on Monday, following the mini-studio last week swinging to a first-quarter loss on rising theatrical marketing costs and steep legal bills from trench warfare with Icahn.