Disney’s profit more than doubles

/ Source: msnbc.com news services

The Walt Disney Co. on Thursday reported a quarterly net profit more than double last year, spurred by movie box office and DVD sales at its film studio and advertising at its television networks.

The Burbank, Calif.-based owner of the Disney movie studio, theme parks and ABC and ESPN TV networks, said it earned net income of $415 million, or 20 cents a share, in its fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with $175 million, or 9 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Revenues rose to $7 billion from $6.6 billion last year.

Financial analysts had expected Disney to post net income of 16 cents a share on revenues of just under $7 billion, according Reuters Research, a unit of Reuters Group Plc.

“Looking ahead, we are confident in our ability to deliver solid growth for fiscal 2004,” Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Eisner said in a statement .

Disney movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” proved to be a major hit for the studio, generating just over $303 million at domestic box offices.

It combined with “Finding Nemo,” the film in which Disney and Pixar Animation Studios Inc partnered, to make the Disney studio the major success story of this past summer’s moviegoing season.

Studio revenues were up 9 percent in the quarter to $2.2 billion and operating income increased to $205 million from $75 million, Disney said in a statement.

The company’s television networks saw quarterly revenues increase 8 percent to $2.6 billion on the back of a strong advertising market and higher fees from cable TV affiliates. Operating income was up to $298 million from $147 million last year.

Theme parks — which include Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in southern California — reported a 1 percent decrease in revenue and a 4 percent decline in operating income to $225 million, reflecting primarily lower hotel occupancy and attendance, coupled with higher costs at Walt Disney World.

Theme-park turnaround?
But Disney Chief Financial Officer Tom Staggs said visitor attendance was up about 12 percent to date in the current quarter, with advance hotel room bookings up about 8 percent.

Staggs said the improved theme park attendance was coming from U.S. tourists and local residents.

“Less so international, which is relatively flat versus last year,” he said.

Separately, Staggs said negotiations aimed at selling Disney’s retail stores were “on track” and said that a conclusion was expected next year, in line with the company’s initial projection.

Reuters contributed to this story.