(Updates shares; Adds CEO, CFO and analyst comments))
By Lisa Richwine and Ronald Grover
LOS ANGELES Feb 5 Media company Walt Disney Co
reported higher profit for the quarter that ended in
December, beating Wall Street expectations due to growth at
sports network ESPN and the blockbuster performance of its
animated hit film "Frozen."
Disney shares jumped 3.9 percent in after-hours trading on
Wednesday to $74.52, up from their earlier $71.76 close on the
New York Stock Exchange.
The company posted adjusted earnings per share of $1.04,
according to a statement it released, exceeding the 92 cents
average estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters
I/B/E/S. Net income for the quarter rose to $1.8 billion, a 33
percent gain from a year earlier.
The company's five major business units all reported higher
profit, with the biggest gain at Disney's movie studio.
The unit reported a 75 percent increase in operating income
to $409 million. The studio benefited from big box office
grosses for "Frozen," the story of royal sisters in an icy
kingdom, and Marvel superhero sequel "Thor: The Dark World." The
two films have sold more than $1.5 billion worth of tickets
Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said "Frozen" sales
were growing as the movie just opened in China and will debut in
Japan in March. The popularity of "Frozen," produced by Walt
Disney Animation Studios, also is fueling toy and music sales
related to the film, he said.
"This has real franchise potential," Iger told analysts on
a conference call. "Expect to see continued interest in this and
continued impact on the bottom line for quite a while."
The media networks unit, which includes ESPN and the Disney
Channels, reported $1.5 billion in operating income for the
quarter, a 20 percent gain from a year earlier. ESPN took in
higher affiliate fees and advertising revenue.
"They are clearly doing a good job making brands at the
studio and monetizing them," Janney Montgomery Scott analyst
Tony Wible said, but he added that results at the ABC
broadcasting unit "were not pretty."
Operating income fell by $84 million at the ABC division to
$178 million, due to higher programming costs, lower program
sales and decreased advertising revenue, Disney said.
At Disney's theme parks, higher guest spending in the United
States helped the unit's profit rise by 16 percent to $671
Profit at consumer products rose 24 percent to $430 million,
lifted by the inclusion of licensing of products from Lucasfilm,
the "Star Wars" producer Disney purchased in 2012.
Disney's interactive gaming unit posted a $55 million
profit, boosted by sales of its ambitious new video game Disney
Infinity. The unit is expected to post an operating loss for the
January through March quarter, Chief Financial Officer Jay
Rasulo said, because it doesn't have any major game releases
He said the loss will be comparable to the unit's
performance a year earlier, when it lost $54 million.