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Pixar Beats Handily

Updated from 4:49 p.m.

Pixar (PIXR) beat the earnings estimate it made analysts back at midquarter and offered guidance well above current expectations.

The computer-generated animation studio cited the "stellar" box office performance of The Incredibles, released last November.

For the fourth quarter ended Jan. 1, Pixar reported earnings of $55.2 million, or 91 cents per share. That's down from the $1.44 per share Pixar earned in the fourth quarter of 2003, but ahead of the Thomson First Call expectation of 77 cents.

With Pixar's one-movie-a-year release schedule making quarterly results erratic, analysts had a wide range of quarterly estimates going into the release -- anywhere from 64 cents to $1.25 per share, according to Thomson.

The company earned $2.38 a share for the year, ahead of the company's Nov. 11 guidance range of $2.10 to $2.20 a share.

Fourth-quarter revenue amounted to $108.9 million, down from $164.8 million a year earlier but beating the consensus figure of $97 million.

Year-earlier results were boosted by the November 2003 home video release of Finding Nemo. The company plans to release The Incredibles on DVD March 15.

Looking ahead, the company forecast first-quarter 2005 EPS in the range of 85 cents to 95 cents. The eight-analyst estimate for the first quarter currently stands at 27 cents per share.

The company's next theatrical release, Cars, isn't expected to be released until the summer of 2006. It's slated to be the last original feature produced and distributed under Pixar's multiyear agreement with Disney (DIS). Pixar hasn't revealed any agreement as to what studio might replace Disney as its distributor for future movies.

Shares in Pixar, up $1 to $89.88 in normal trading, gained another $1.95 after hours.

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