Disney Earnings More Than Double, Handily Beating Forecasts

Walt Disney said that first-quarter earnings more than doubled from a year ago, driven by DVD sales of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" and "Cars," and helped by the sale of investments including an E! Entertainment stake.

Shares of Disney rose as much as 2.5% in after-hours trading Wednesday.

Excluding gains on investment sales and stock-based, compensation-related charges, Disney reported quarterly earnings of 50 cents a share, easily surpassing expectations. The company was expected to post fiscal first-quarter earnings of 39 cents a share, according to a Thomson Financial consensus estimate, up from 35 cents last year.

Including one-time items, Disney said net income rose to $1.7 billion, or 79 cents a share, from $734 million, or 37 cents a share in last year's first quarter.

Revenue rose 10% to $9.7 billion, topping the analyst consensus of $9.5 billion.

The broadcasting and entertainment company has enjoyed robust earnings growth and a return to favor with investors since Robert Iger took over as chief executive in late 2005 and began an aggressive program to expand the company's global reach, revitalize its animation division and push the boundaries of digital distribution.

The company's share price rose 12% during the quarter and now trades at about 20.3 times projected 2007 earnings. Rival Time Warner trades at a multiple of 21.2 times 2007 earnings, and Viacom at a multiple of 20.6.

Busy at the Theme Park Gate

Disney Chief Financial Officer Tom Staggs said current bookings for travel to its domestic theme parks were up about 3% compared with the same point a year ago.

"As we look at current bookings, we're trending slightly ahead of the prior year, about 3% ahead of the prior year," Staggs told reporters following the company's release of its fiscal firstquarter earnings.

California-based Disney operates the Walt Disney World resort in Florida and the Disneyland park in southern Califoria.