posted solid fourth-quarter numbers Thursday.
For its fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, the Burbank, Calif., media giant earned $516 million, or 25 cents a share. That's up from the year-ago $415 million, or 20 cents a share. On an adjusted basis excluding certain one-time items, latest-quarter earnings rose to 19 cents a share from 17 cents a year earlier.
Revenue rose to $7.54 billion from $7.01 billion a year ago. The numbers were broadly in line with Wall Street's expectations. The top line came in a hair shy of the Thomson First Call estimate of $7.57 billion, but per-share earnings beat their target by a penny.
The fourth-quarter gains were helped along by operating income growth at Media Networks, Parks and Resorts and Consumer Products, and partially offset by a decrease at Studio Entertainment, Disney said.
"By any measure, 2004 was an outstanding year," said CEO Michael Eisner. "All three of our core financial measures -- cash flow, earnings per share and return on invested capital -- showed strong growth, and we increased our operating income at each of our operating segments demonstrating the balanced nature of the company's performance."
Cable networks operating income grew by $146 million for the quarter, thanks to higher revenue at ESPN and lower NFL programming costs at ESPN, among other factors.
Fourth-quarter revenue at the company's parks and resorts grew 31% to $2.2 billion. Growth at the theme parks was due to items including the consolidation of Euro Disney and improvements at Disneyland, with ticket price increases and a cutback in discounting both serving to increase per-capita guest spending.
As expected, operating income at Walt Disney World fell because of the Florida hurricanes, though the impact was somewhat offset by increased guest spending.
Studio entertainment revenue fell 14% to $1.9 billion, and operating income fell to $23 million from $205 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2003. Lower domestic home entertainment revenue was attributable to weaker-performing titles such as "Hidalgo" and "Kill Bill Vol. 2," which suffered by comparison to "Chicago" and "Bringing Down the House."
Consumer products was a bright spot, with revenue growing 10% to $618 million and operating income growing 43% to $146 million. Disney has announced plans to sell its North American Disney Store chain to
The news comes as Wall Street looks to an improved performance from ABC, reviving trends at theme parks and a smooth transition in the executive suite to help boost the stock over the coming months.
Those factors should overcome negatives such as a hurricane-induced theme park hit and dirty laundry aired at a Delaware trial devoted to Michael Ovitz's problematic mid-1990s tenure as chief operating officer.
Late Thursday, Disney added 19 cents to $26.94.