By Lisa Richwine and Ronald Grover
LOS ANGELES Aug 7 Walt Disney Co
quarterly earnings rose 31 percent, exceeding Wall Street
expectations, lifted by higher spending at theme parks and the
blockbuster "The Avengers" superhero movie.
The media and theme park company reported on Tuesday
earnings per share of $1.01, beating the 93 cents a share that
analysts had forecast, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net income rose 24 percent to $1.8 billion for the three
months ended in June.
Driven by "The Avengers," which has made more than $1.4
billion worldwide, studio income increased to $313 million from
$49 million a year earlier. Chief Executive Bob Iger announced
the company had signed a deal with "Avengers" director Joss
Whedon to write and direct an "Avengers" sequel, and to help
develop a Marvel-based TV series for the ABC broadcast network.
The studio results offset a decline in earnings at Disney's
powerhouse ESPN sports network, which the company said was due
to the timing of deferred affiliate fees. Overall its cable TV
unit, the company's largest, increased by 1 percent to $1.86
Advertising at ESPN grew in the quarter, helped by NBA
games. Looking ahead, Iger said he was bullish about ESPN's ad
prospects "for the next number of months, maybe for the next
Advertising revenue at ABC "decreased modestly" from lower
ratings partially offset by higher rates, Disney said.
At theme parks, earnings rose 21 percent, the result of
increases at its Tokyo theme park, where the company collects
management and other fees, and which was impacted last year by a
temporary suspension of operations following the March 2011
Park results also improved due to a new cruise ship and more
guests at Disneyland in California, where the company just
completed a major expansion that includes "Cars Land."
Disney "showed great momentum across all their business
lines," said Lazard Capital Markets analyst Barton Crockett, who
rates Disney a "buy." "I thought it was a great quarter."
In after-hours trading, Disney's shares declined 0.8 percent
to $49.40, down from their earlier close of $49.81 on the New
York Stock Exchange.
Disney shares are near a lifetime high and the drop may have
been due to profit-taking, Crockett said. "The stock had a very
good improvement into the earnings report."