With media stocks continuing their slide into the dog days of August, investors may have to settle for mixed results in this week's earnings reports.
Finishing up this quarter's cycle of financial reports,
will likely have good news for Wall Street in such areas as theme parks and, believe it or not, Italian satellite TV.
But a host of other issues promise to cloud the outlook, ranging from News Corp.'s plan for a corporate emigration from Australia to a string of bad news in Disney's music business, to last Friday's dismal jobs report.
Shares in Disney -- which hit a 52-week high of $28.41 in February, in the wake of
unsuccessful bid for the company -- fell 29 cents Friday to close at $21.99. Rupert Murdoch-led News Corp. fell 21 cents Friday to close at $32.29, down 19% from its February 52-week peak.
Disney reports after the markets close Tuesday, and News Corp. reports after Wednesday's close.
For the fiscal third quarter ended June 30, the consensus expectation is for Disney to earn 27 cents per share, according to Thomson First Call. The revenue forecast is $7.15 billion. Other bottom-line expectations include earnings before interest and taxes of $1.12 billion, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $1.41 billion, and operating profit of $1.16 billion.
For News Corp.'s fiscal fourth quarter ended June 30, the First Call earnings consensus is 28 cents per share, on total revenue of $5.25 billion. The median operating profit expectation is for $722 million; First Call doesn't have much of a critical mass of other bottom-line estimates on file.
After a strong March 31 quarter at Disney, expectations for the company's theme parks division continue to be strong. Last month, for example, Sanders Morris Harris analyst David Miller upgraded Disney from hold to buy, citing improved revenue at the theme part unit, which he noted accounted for 24% of Disney's revenue and about 35% of segment operating income.
That pushed Miller's third-quarter theme park estimates from $1.8 billion in revenue to $2.11 billion, and EBIT from $362 million to $418 million.
But difficulties at the company's television and film units continue to weigh on the company. The company has suffered a string of box-office disappointments in recent months, including
, which Deutsche Bank's Douglas Mitchelson predicted last week would prompt a $50 million-plus writeoff for Disney in the third quarter.
Analysts will also likely fish for news about the health of the theme park business in the fourth quarter, in the wake of last Friday's disappointing job-growth news. Credit Suisse First Boston, which issues travel-stat bulletins relevant to Disney's U.S. theme parks, noted that for the four weeks ending July 31, Orlando hotel occupancy rates were up 8.6% over the prior year, while Anaheim occupancy was down 0.8%.
Disney also appears closer to shedding some of the bad news of the past.
The Children's Place
disclosed last week that it had signed a nonbinding letter of intent regarding a possible acquisition of Disney's ailing Disney Store chain, which the company has said for months it is trying to offload.
Meanwhile, News Corp. investors are paying increasing attention to the company's Sky Italia satellite unit, one of News Corp.'s far-flung assets that could be an engine for growth. Merrill Lynch's Jessica Reif Cohen, for one, expects fiscal fourth quarter revenue to grow to $500 million from a year-ago $227 million. Cohen forecasts an operating loss at Sky Italia of $37 million, compared with $68 million a year earlier. (Cohen has a buy rating on News Corp. She or an associate owns stock in the company, and Merrill Lynch has done investment banking for the company.)
Also powering growth is News Corp.'s U.S. entertainment subsidiary,
, thanks mostly to its cable network business. Fox said last month it planned to launch a reality TV channel -- a venture that would no doubt reap synergistic benefits from Fox's controlling stake in
DirecTV, which last week reported surprisingly strong subscriber growth in the June quarter, represents further satellite-related good news for shareholders. But News Corp. shareholders were disappointed last week by other satellite news: News Corp.'s minority-owned British satellite service
said last week that its bottom line would suffer in the coming years from an aggressive effort to gain share. That sent BSkyB's shares down 17% in one day, and News Corp.'s down 4.5%.