Walt Disney Shares Slide as Results Miss Estimates

Walt Disney posted lower quarterly profits on Thursday as it booked less revenue in its cable division, offsetting strong advertising sales and receipts for films like "Toy Story 3."

Cinderella's Castle
Cinderella's Castle

The media giant turned in a profit of 45 cents a share excluding one-time items, versus 46 cents a share last year.

Sales for the most recent period fell to $9.74 billion, down from $9.867 billion.

Analysts who follow Disney, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, expected the company to turn in a profit excluding items of 46 cents a share on sales of $9.948 billion.

The media and entertainment conglomerate faced a tough comparison with the year-ago quarter, which benefited from an additional week in the reporting period.

Disney shares finished the regular New York Stock Exchange session down almost 3 percent on volume of more than 36 million shares. The stock recuperated some of that decline in extended trading. Get after-quotes for Walt Disney here.

Disney's fourth-quarter net income, a figure that includes one-time items, fell to $835 million, or 43 cents per share, compared with $895 million, or 47 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue at the flagship media networks division fell, with the company citing programming writeoffs at A&E/Lifetime as well as the fact that ESPN had already recognized a significant amount of revenue from affiliates after hitting a targeted number of key sporting events in the third quarter as opposed to the fourth quarter last year.

Revenue at its media networks arm, home to sports cable network ESPN and broadcaster ABC, fell 7 percent to $4.4 billion. Operating income in media networks fell 18 percent to $1.2 billion, missing analysts' forecasts for about $1.37 billion, due to programming writeoffs.

Analysts said ESPN recognized $354 million less deferred revenue than it recognized in the same period a year ago, noting the amount was equal to earnings of about 9 cents per share.

"The revenue bright spot that beat our estimate was the studios, mostly on the strength of 'Toy Story 3,'" said David Joyce, analyst with Miller Tabak.

Before markets closed Thursday, Disney temporarily posted fiscal fourth-quarter results to its Web site ahead of schedule, then pulled them down. CNBC reported the results before Disney formally put out its release at about 3:45 p.m. ET.

Executives at the company said they were investigating the matter.