Disney earnings beat despite shaky economy

Wed Feb 8, 2012 2:35am GMT

1 of 2.

Credit: Reuters

Quotes

   

* Results due after market close on Tuesday

* Quarterly revenue expected to rise 4.7 pct

* Shares up 10 pct since last earnings report

(Adds Univision talks, analyst comment; updates shares)

By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) is expected to show another steady quarter of growth, driven by healthy business at cable networks and theme parks, when the media giant reports results on Tuesday.

The company's shares have risen 10.2 percent since November, when Chief Executive Bob Iger reported higher income and profits propelled by a rise in cable advertising and theme park growth.

Analysts predict the operator of TV networks ESPN and ABC, a movie studio, cruise line and theme parks will again show it is steadily navigating through an uncertain economy and report a 4.7 percent revenue increase this quarter.

Looking ahead to 2012, investors want to hear executives' outlook on its resorts like Walt Disney World, expectations for the advertising market and details on negotiations with Univision for a new 24-hour cable news network.

News broke on Monday that Disney's ABC television unit was talking with the Spanish-language broadcaster about creating an English-language news channel. [ID:nL2E8D712Q]

Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan said it "makes a lot of sense" for Disney to target the growing Hispanic market in the United States. But Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould was unsure the company could distinguish itself among the crowded field of cable news outlets. "I’m just not sure if we need another 24-hour news channel," he said.

With Tuesday's results, Wall Street likely will focus on the parks and cruise ship business as well as the sprawling landscape of cable networks including ESPN and the Disney Channel.

Reports of strong attendance late last year at the flagship Walt Disney World resort in Florida signal another solid quarter for the theme parks Disney operates on three continents, some analysts said.

"The parks business has been rebounding, and I think that will very likely continue," Morningstar analyst Michael Corty said.

Sports powerhouse ESPN likely will lead Disney's cable networks, partly from an increase in cable affiliate fees. "That continues to be a healthy source of incremental growth for them," Davenport & Co analyst Michael Morris said.

On Monday, Morris upgraded Disney shares to "buy" from his previous "neutral" rating and raised his price target to $46. He said fears had eased that cable operators would push back against ESPN fee increases. He also said an improving U.S. jobs picture that should help Disney's consumer-dependent businesses.

Disney's studio division had a surprise hit with modestly budgeted film "The Muppets", but faces tough comparisons with home video sales for "Cars 2" versus the smash hit "Toy Story 3" a year earlier.

Disney is expected to report fiscal first quarter earnings of 72 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue is forecast to rise 4.7 percent from a year earlier to $11.2 billion.

On Tuesday, Disney shares gained 0.4 percent to $40.61 in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting By Lisa Richwine; Additional reporting by Yinka Adegoke in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Tim Dobbyn)

((lisa.richwine@thomsonreuters.com)(1 213 955 6776)(Follow me on Twitter @LARichwine)) Keywords: DISNEY/

(C) Reuters 2012 All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing, or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.