TV propels Disney profit above estimates

Growth in Disney's TV unit fueled fourth-quarter earnings, beating analysts' estimates.

By TheStreet Staff Feb 9, 2010 6:55PM

TheStreetBy Scott Eden, TheStreet

 

Walt Disney’s (DIS) fourth-quarter earnings beat Wall Street targets as its television business expanded.

 

The company, one of the purest gauges of discretionary spending among US consumers, said its net income was $844 million, or 44 cents a share, slightly less than the year-earlier quarter.

 

Excluding items related to the sale of a stake in a European television service, Disney said it would have earned 47 cents. Analysts had expected a 38-cent profit, according to a Thomson Reuters poll. Revenue rose 1% to $9.74 billion, topping the consensus estimate of $9.66 billion.

 

The closest the company came to providing an outlook were the prepared remarks of CEO Robert Iger, who touted the slate of movies Disney is scheduled to release this year.

 

Iger said he was "excited" about the company's "creative pipeline." He singled out Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and the latest Pixar confection, “Toy Story 3.” The company's 2010 box-office hopes have long rested on these two offerings.

 

In after-hours trading, Disney shares rose 51 cents to $30.26, a 1.7% increase from the close in the regular session, when they advanced 1.2%.

 

Among its business lines, Disney’s TV unit performed the strongest during the fourth quarter, with revenue rising 7% and operating income increasing 11%, compared with the same period in 2008. Cable television, which includes the Disney Channel and a majority stake in ESPN, saw increases in subscribers and advertising spending, Disney said. ESPN's top line also benefited from the launch of a British version of the all-sports TV channel.

 

Theme park revenue was flat at $2.6 billion. All other segments -- movie studios, merchandising and online media -- saw revenue decline from a year ago.

 

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