Beyond those trends, this week promises two days of information overload as analysts assemble in Orlando, Fla., for presentations from Disney management.
Starting with a 1 p.m. gloss on Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration, analysts -- and anyone else who chooses to listen in at
www.disney.com/investors -- will be barraged with data. High points will include how Disney hopes to keep the momentum going with its new-and-improved prime time schedule, how the company hopes to compete in the world of filmed animation amid its scheduled breakup with computer-generated animation powerhouse
, and how the consumer products business is doing following the handoff of U.S. Disney Store operations to
At the same time, Wall Street will have to weigh the importance of other largely unaddressed factors, including: Is CEO Michael Eisner's succession by Chief Operating Officer Bob Iger -- Disney's only internal candidate for the post -- a done deal? What's the upshot from the Delaware court battle over Disney's hiring and firing of agent Michael Ovitz in the mid-1990s? And will
, Disney's first feature-length theatrical foray into CG animation completely independent of Pixar, be any good?
For the record, analysts following Disney are expecting earnings of 29 cents a share for Disney's fiscal first quarter, which ended Dec. 31. Revenue is expected to be $8.5 billion, according to the Thomson First Call consensus. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization is expected to be $1.33 billion, according to the median estimate of a seven-analyst survey. Estimates for earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization -- another cash flow figure followed by several Disney analysts -- cluster around $1.2 billion, according the
informal survey, and come in as low as $954 million.
Within those numbers, cash-flow growth is expected to be heaviest at the company's media networks and theme park units, while the movie division is expected to decline given the year-earlier home video releases of
Pirates of the Caribbean
, among other movies.
Credit Suisse First Boston's William Drewry, for example, expects broadcast networks EBITA to rise 34% from the December 2003 quarter to $461 million, led by 43% EBITA growth in the broadcasting business. Parks and resorts EBITA, pro forma for the inclusion of Euro Disney results, will be up 29% to $307 million, CSFB forecasts, and consumer products EBITA will be up 23% to $291 million. Studio entertainment EBITA will fall 68% to $148 million, CSFB forecasts. (Drewry has an outperform rating on Disney and a $40 price target; his firm has done investment banking for Disney within the past 12 months.)
The analyst meeting will be a bigger event for Disney than the actual earnings release, writes Drewry, who expects the company to talk about new growth opportunities ranging from business in Asia to animation initiatives, including the sequels to Disney-distributed Pixar movies under the aegis of the companies' current alliance.
"The ABC network is on a roll and will get attention in terms of sustainability and profit upside potential (we believe several hundred million dollars)," writes Drewry.
Disney's shares, still on the rebound from last August's lows of $20.88, fell 7 cents Friday to $28.23.