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Disney Wants Quarter Forgotten

Disney (DIS - Get Report) says its fourth-quarter lurch won't turn into something more serious. Investors are less sure.

The entertainment giant reported a 27% decline in year-over-year profits Thursday night thanks to a significant loss in its movie studio. Disney, which warned investors that spotty home-video sales and contract buyouts would produce the red ink, also posted quarterly sales that were about $150 million short of estimates.

In recent trading, the stock was down 66 cents, or 2.5%, to $25.33.

To soothe wounded bulls, CFO Thomas Staggs projected on a conference call that Disney would resume its recent trend of posting year-over-year per share earnings growth in the double-digit percent range in fiscal 2006. The company earned $2.53 billion, or $1.22 a share, on $31.94 billion in sales in fiscal 2005, up from earnings of $2.35 billion, or $1.12 a share, on $30.75 billion in sales in fiscal 2004.

That's about an 8% jump in per-share earnings year over year. However, sans an accounting change related to the valuation of its broadcasting licenses, the company would have earned $2.57 billion, or $1.24 a share, 11% more than what it earned last year.

Disney expects the second half of its fiscal year to provide the lion's share of its revenue and earnings, Staggs said. The poor performance of the company's recent studio films will continue to weigh on the company in the first half of next year as those films make their way to DVD and home video, he said.

In the just completed fourth quarter, Disney earned $379 million, or 19 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $516 million, or 25 cents a share, a year ago. Backing out stock options expenses, an accounting change and several other items, earnings were 20 cents a share. Analysts were forecasting 18 cents a share.

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