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Trapped in a Wednesday morning

bear hug,


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fought back by posting stronger-than-expected earnings.

For the first quarter ended Dec. 31, Disney posted net income of $688 million, or 33 cents a share. That compared with $36 million, or 2 cents a share, a year earlier and was a dime ahead of the Wall Street consensus estimate provided by Thomson First Call. Revenue surged to $8.55 billion from $7.17 billion a year ago, also handily above the $8 billion Wall Street estimate.

"The tremendous results of our first quarter dramatically demonstrate the fundamental value and potential of this company, driven by Disney's tradition of producing great creative content that is embraced by the public," CEO Michael Eisner said. "During the quarter, we saw growth in all our business segments with our Studios and Media Networks leading the way."

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Disney made no comment in the earnings statement on Wednesday's $54 billion unsolicited bid from cable juggernaut


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. Disney shares surged 15% in early action Wednesday on news of the all-stock offer. But Eisner's comments could be read as a stubborn stick-it-out-alone statement.

"Clearly, these great results increase our confidence that we will deliver earnings growth from our continuing operations of more than 30% in 2004," Eisner said. "Given the strength of our brands and other assets and the strategies we have in place, as we look out several years beyond 2004, we are targeting double digit compound growth in our earnings through at least 2007."

The release came ahead of schedule as the Burbank, Calif., media giant reeled under the weight of the bid, along with various other disputes. The company's board and two dissident former directors, Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, have been trading barbs in recent days over the leadership of Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Comcast is due to host a conference call at 11 a.m. EST, and Disney management is due to address institutional investors at an annual retreat.

Disney had been due to post earnings after the bell Wednesday but halted trading in its stock and accelerated the release to make the release early.