Disney Profits Beat Forecasts on Growth at Amusement Parks, Networks

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Walt Disney Co. ( DIS)said sales and profits that beat analyst forecasts as the world's largest entertainment company posted growth at its television networks, film studios and amusement parks.

The Burbank, Calif.-based owner of ESPN and the ABC network, said sales for the three months ended March 31 totaled $10.55 billion, beating a $10.48 billion estimate, according to the average of 25 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Revenue at Disney's amusement parks and resorts grew 14% to $3.3 billion, bolstered by its Cars Land attraction, an outgrowth of its Pixar movies. Operating profit surged 73% to $383 million.

"It was a great quarter for the parks, it really was," Chief Executive Robert Iger said in a conference call with investors. "In an economy that is seeing slight improvement, this bodes very well for our future."

Operating income at Disney for its fiscal second-quarter jumped 29% to $2.5 billion as earnings per share for the quarter adjusted for one-time items was 79 cents, compared to a forecast of 77 cents per share in a Bloomberg survey.

Disney, which has gained 51% in the past 12 months, said operating income at its cable networks, which includes ESPN, rose $224 million to $1.7 billion as affiliate revenue increased 10%. Sales at its media networks, which includes ABC, increase 6% to $5 billion.

"There's more certainty as it pertains to ESPN than just about any of our other businesses, which is a good thing," Iger added. "ESPN is in great shape, and even better as new distribution deals kick in. We think ESPN's future in terms of its growth trajectory is quite good."

Shares were falling 0.7% to $65.62 in after-market trading after closing Tuesday at $66.07.

Chief Executive Robert Iger jumped into the fracas caused by Aereo Inc., the New York-based company that has won two court decisions to defend its business of retransmitting over-the-air broadcast television for their Internet-based pay-subscription service. Aereo is currently only available in the New York metro area.

Aereo is "trying to steal" our television shows and properties, Iger told CNBC, adding that the service will ultimately be ruled to be illegal.

Earlier on Tuesday, Disney said it had reached a multi-year agreement with Electronic Arts Inc. ( EA), the second-largest video-game publisher, to produce games based on the Star Wars story and its characters.

Over the weekend, Disney's Iron Man 3 generated $175 million in U.S. sales, the second-highest debut ever to only The Avengers. Worldwide, Iron Man has already brought in $680 million.

Written by Leon Lazaroff in New York

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