Theme Park Visitors, ESPN Boost Disney

November 9, 2007 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

ImageLOS ANGELES (AP) More visitors at The Walt Disney Co.’s theme parks and growth at its ESPN cable channel helped the company’s fourth-quarter profit climb 12 percent.

Attendance at Disney’s domestic theme parks grew 5 percent in the quarter, mostly at the Walt Disney World complex in Florida. Guest spending grew 2 percent, said Thomas Staggs, Disney’s chief financial officer.

“Thus far, our businesses remain strong, and we have not seen indications of a downturn in the economy,” Staggs said after the results were released Thursday.

Profits at Disney’s consumer products division increased 10 percent on strong sales of merchandise related to the Pixar movie “Cars” and other items.

The only lagger in the quarter was Disney’s film studio, which saw a 21 percent decrease in operating profit and a 24 percent drop in revenue.

The studio suffered from unfavorable comparisons with last year’s fourth quarter, which included revenue from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”

Disney reported net income of $877 million, or 44 cents per share, for the quarter ended Sept. 29, compared with $782 million, or 36 cents per share, for the year-ago period.

Earnings benefited from a 2 cents per share gain related to prior-year income tax matters. Without the one-time item, earnings for the quarter were 42 cents per share.

Revenue grew to $8.93 billion from $8.65 billion in the same period last year.

Analysts at Thomson Financial had anticipated earnings of 41 cents per share on revenue of $8.98 billion.

Disney shares rose 13 cents to $33.63 Thursday. After the results were released, the shares fell 8 cents in extended trading.

The company, which owns the ABC network, said it has contingency plans in place in the event of a prolonged strike by the Writers Guild of America.

The plans include cutting costs and increasing movies, holiday programming and reality shows, said Robert Iger, Disney’s president and chief executive officer.

“We would hope that we’ll be able to find a way to settle this difference and settle the strike before there’s damage done to the business or, by the way, to the community that we operate in,” Iger told analysts in a conference call.

“There is a trickle-down effect that this has on more than just people directly associated with producing these shows. Southern California is going to feel it first and hard, and I think that’s just a shame,” he said.

The media conglomerate said it would increase its capital spending as it ramps up its video game unit.

Looking ahead to 2008, Staggs said bookings at Disney’s domestic theme parks were in the “mid-single digits” ahead of last year.

Advertising pricing at ABC was running double digits ahead of the prices secured before the season launched. The demand for advertising on Disney’s cable networks also looked strong, Staggs said.

For the full fiscal year, Disney reported net income of $4.69 billion, or $2.25 per share, compared with $3.37 billion, or $1.64 per share, for fiscal 2006.

Revenue increased to $35.51 billion from $33.75 billion.

Analysts had been looking for annual net income of $1.92 per share on revenue of $35.63 billion.

Source: www.cinema-pedia.com

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