Walt Disney Earnings Jump, Outstrip Analyst Forecasts

Walt Disneyreported a profit that blew past Wall Street forecasts, aided by a hefty rise in advertising sales at its ESPN cable sports channels and a strong showing from its parks and resorts division.

Cinderella's Castle
Cinderella's Castle

The entertainment conglomerate reported fiscal first-quarter earnings of 68 cents a share excluding one-time items, up from 47 cents a share last year.

Sales came in at $10.7 billion, up from $9.739 billion a year ago.

Wall Street was looking for a profit of 56 cents a share on revenue of $10.5 billion, according to a consensus estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters.

All three of Disney's biggest business divisions—media networks, studio entertainment and parks and resorts—turned in higher operating profit for its fiscal first quarter. But media networks stole the show, due in large measure to the performance of ESPN.

Ratings at ESPN were up about 9 percent in prime-time during the last three months of the year thanks to Monday Night Football, college football bowl games, the National Basketball Association and its flagship "SportsCenter" program.

Overall, media networks, which also include ABC and Disney Channels, posted an 11 percent jump in revenue. Profit rose 47 percent.

Studio operating profit rose 54 percent and consumer products profit increased 28 percent. In its interactive division, the acquisition of Playdom results in a quarterly loss, even though revenue jumped 58 percent.

Investors responded to the earnings report by pushing the shares almost 4 percent higher. Get after-hour quotes for Disney here.

The stock, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, closed marginally higher at $41.16 Tuesday after earlier hitting a 52-week high of $41.24 in the middle of the session. Volume neared 11 million shares.

Shares of Disney have underperformed rivals such as News Corp and Time Warnersince its last earnings report three months ago, when it reported a rare profit miss.

But Tuesday's results gave an immediate lift to the stock, as was the case last week with News Corp and Time Warner after they posted quarterly earnings and upbeat outlooks. They also noted a strengthening ad market, which is expected to last through the year.

Net profit for the Disney's quarter, which includes one-time charges, was still $1.3 billion, or 68 cents per share. On the same basis, profit last year was $844 million, or 44 cents a share.