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DreamWorks Animation shares plummet after Hasbro talks end

DreamWorks Animation shares take a drubbing Monday after Hasbro ends talks to buy the studio

Shares in DreamWorks Animation took a drubbing on Monday after Hasbro Inc. ended talks to buy the Glendale studio.

And in a decision that could further rattle investors, DreamWorks plans to push back the release of one of its three movies scheduled for next year, said two people close to the studio.

DreamWorks shares dropped 14% to close at $22.31 as investors responded to news that Hasbro was no longer interested in buying the creator of the "Shrek," "Kung Fu Panda" and "Madagascar" movies.

The share decline -- the largest single-day drop since the company went public in 2004 -- wiped out the gains DreamWorks made on Thursday following reports that the company was in talks to merge with the world's second-largest toy maker.

But Hasbro's investors had responded negatively to the proposed merger, questioning why the Pawtucket, R.I., company would expand into the risky movie business. The sides also were said to be far apart on a purchase price.

DreamWorks "wants a Pixar-style valuation and that's probably a stretch if you look at the track record," said David Miller, an analyst with Topeka Capital Markets, referring to the Disney-owned studio.

Also standing in the way of a deal were lucrative licensing deals Hasbro has with DreamWorks rival Walt Disney Co., Miller said.

Investors in DreamWorks have been on a roller coast ride in recent weeks.

The company's shares jumped 26% on Sept. 29 following reports that DreamWorks was in negotiations to sell to Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank Corp. But when those talks collapsed, shares plummeted in subsequent weeks.

Shares have fallen 37% this year amid concerns about the performance of its recent movies.

DreamWorks has taken write-downs on three films in the last two years,  although the studio's latest movie, "How to Train Your Dragon 2," has done well at the box office.

The studio's next animated sequel, "Penguins of Madagascar," is expected to do solid business.

The outlook for next year, however, is more uncertain. DreamWorks has decided to push back the release date for "B.O.O.: Bureau of Other Worldly Operations," one of two original movies (rather than sequels) planned for next year, two people close to the studio said.

The movie, directed by Tom Wheeler and featuring the voices of Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy, was set to debut on June 5, 2015.

But DreamWorks executives are weighing various alternative dates, including releasing the movie in fall 2015 or in spring 2016, said the people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to discuss the decision.

One person said DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was unhappy with the progress of the film, while another said the decision had more to do with the competitive landscape the studio faces next summer. Pixar also will release its movie "Inside Out" in June.

A spokesman for DreamWorks Animation declined to comment on the release plans for "B.O.O.", but a company statement said: "Animated features are our most valuable asset and we regularly evaluate how to maximize their value, including determining the most opportune time to release a film."

Twitter: @rverrier

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