(Adds CEO comments from conference call)
By Lisa Richwine
Aug 5 (Reuters) - Media company Walt Disney Co’s quarterly profit blew past Wall Street expectations, with a muscular performance from its “Captain America” movie, higher attendance at U.S. theme parks and brisk sales of merchandise tied to mega-hit “Frozen.”
Net income rose to $2.2 billion in the quarter ended on June 28, up 22 percent from the year-ago period, the company said on Tuesday. Diluted earnings per share reached a record $1.28, beating analysts’ average forecast of $1.17 in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S survey.
Revenue rose to 8 percent $12.47 billion.
Shares of Disney rose 15 cents in after-hours trading to $86.90 after closing at $86.75 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said the company’s earnings per share for the first three quarters of fiscal 2014 were greater than any previous full fiscal year.
“Our strategy of building strong brands and franchises continues to create great value across our company,” Iger said in a statement.
Operating income at Disney’s media networks division was flat at $2.3 billion and declined 7 percent for the unit’s cable networks segment, due to a decrease at sports juggernaut ESPN. ESPN fell in part from higher programming and production costs for Major League Baseball and the FIFA World Cup, and the absence of ESPN UK, which had been sold, Disney said.
At the movie studio, operating income more than doubled to $411 million, thanks to the success of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Maleficent” in theaters and home entertainment sales for “Frozen.”
The theme parks unit reported operating income of $848 million, up 23 percent from the prior year and driven by the company’s U.S. operations. Both attendance and guest spending rose at domestic parks.
The company is drawing up plans to add a “far greater ‘Star Wars’ presence” at its theme parks, Iger said, and hopes to announce details next year. He assured analysts the next “Star Wars” movie, “Episode VII,” remains set for release on December 18, 2015, despite an injury to star Harrison Ford.
Operating income for consumer products rose 25 percent to $273 million thanks to increases at Disney retail stores and in its licensing business for products related to “Frozen,” the Disney Channel, “Spider-Man” and “Planes.”
Disney’s interactive gaming unit reported its fourth consecutive quarterly profit with help from sales of its Disney Infinity toy-and-game combo. Operating income for the unit totaled $29 million.
Analysts asked Iger if he felt the need to acquire new companies to increase Disney’s scale as other media companies plan mergers.
Iger said the company felt confident Disney can “continue to mine growth from the channel properties that we own.”
“We like the hand that we have,” he said.
Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Lehar Maan; Editing by Maju Samuel and Richard Chang