Things have been clicking for the folks at
ever since Bob Iger replaced Michael Eisner as CEO.
In six months since taking the helm, Iger has engineered a number of big deals, most notably a $6.4 billion acquisition of animation powerhouse Pixar. He is also overseeing divestiture of the company's long-held ABC radio assets in a deal with
The company's ABC TV network continues to impress on the ratings side, while the theme parks are humming along nicely. As a result, investors have lifted Disney shares by 20% this year.
The upswing comes as Disney prepares to post fiscal second-quarter earnings after the close Tuesday. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial are looking for the company to earn 31 cents per share on $8.17 billion in revenue. The Burbank, Calif., company beat EPS targets by 5 cents when it reported December-quarter results, and Wall Street is looking for a repeat.
Prudential's Katherine Styponias will be looking for an 8% revenue lift this quarter. "We expect the primary driver to be Media Networks and in particular, the broadcasting division, which is experiencing significant growth due to the continued stellar ratings performance at the ABC Network," she writes. Prudential has an overweight rating and a $36 target price on the stock. Prudential owns 1% or more of Disney common shares.
But life at the Mouse House isn't just a bowl of cherries. Prudential expects operating income to decline some 9% from the prior-year period, thanks in large part to tough comparisons at the studio division.
Somewhat ironically, last year's DVD numbers were buoyed by sales of
, the ultrapopular Pixar animated film that was distributed by Disney under the old partnership. This year's home-video results will lean on Disney-produced
, which has generated a fraction of
The company's recent decision to make television shows available for free on the Web for a limited time is an effort to see is how advertisers acclimate themselves to the new media platform. Overall, Disney, through its ABC and ESPN networks, has been a market leader in embracing new technology through the Web and mobile platforms. However, the network has come under fire recently from some of its affiliated television station groups, some of which feel that Disney is cutting them out of the action.
Meanwhile, Disney said late Friday that it had completed the Pixar acquisition. The all-stock transaction will see 2.3 Disney shares issued for each Pixar share. The deal also installs Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs on the Disney board, while President Ed Catmull moves in as president of the new Pixar and Disney animation studios. Pixar's John Lasseter will take the creative reins at the animation studios. Lasseter will also lend a hand on theme-park-ride design.
The formal completion of the Pixar deal may also fuel further speculation that with its decks cleared, Disney's leadership may join the hunt for Spanish-language juggernaut
. The company has some flexibility under media-ownership caps that many of its brethren don't enjoy. Disney is said to have recently looked at Univision's books.
And all eyes will be on
, the next Pixar film, due in theaters June 9, to see if the studio will continue its winning streak at the box office.