is increasingly confident it will hit its fiscal 2005 earnings target, Chief Operating Officer Bob Iger said Wednesday.
Additionally, the company still expects to meet its previous forecasts of earnings growth through fiscal 2007, Iger said.
The comments of Bob Iger -- Disney's second-in-command and the company's only internal candidate to succeed CEO Michael Eisner -- come as the company enjoys an upswing in its long-suffering ABC Television business, as well as a rise in its stock price.
Iger said he felt better about Disney's ability to deliver on forecasts of double-digit annual earnings growth in 2005, thanks not only to the improvement at ABC, but also to the strong start in the company's movie business this year with the release of
, co-produced with
, and the Nicolas Cage film
Fiscal 2005 for Disney started Oct. 1.
It is now likely that ABC will achieve profitability in fiscal 2005, said Iger, "not including some investments in production," thanks in part to the breakout new series "Desperate Housewives."
"It's one of those mega-hits you dream about," said Iger. He said that ABC's cost structure was in good shape. Rather than make further cuts in programming expenses, he said that those costs would stay flat from 2004 to 2005, and that the network has also put aside money for marketing.
But Iger, speaking at the Credit Suisse First Boston Media & Telecom Week conference in New York, hedged his '05 outlook with the caveat that the economic environment needed to cooperate. "The economy is somewhat wobbly," he said.
Double-digit earnings growth in the years beyond 2005 is also within reach, said Iger.
In other news, Iger confirmed that Disney would be moving the release date of
, its first full-length, in-house-produced, computer-animated feature, to next November from summer 2005. Disney and Pixar said Tuesday that
, the last original feature in their multiyear production/distribution agreement, would be moved from that November slot to June of the following year.
In a sign, perhaps, of how corporate governance and succession at Disney are on the back burner as far as Wall Street is concerned, neither CSFB analyst William Drewry -- who conducted a question-and-answer session with Iger -- nor questioners from the audience brought those issues up with the executive.
Disney's shares rose 19 cents Wednesday to trade at $27.05.