Media and entertainment giant Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) announced third quarter 2015 earnings on August 4 after market close, reporting another earnings beat. Despite this, the stock came under incredible pressure, falling 9% on August 5 (the largest drop for any day since December 1, 2008), wiping out $18 billion of the company’s market value.
Disney’s profit rose 11% to $1.45 earnings per share, surpassing the Street’s estimate of $1.42. Additionally, Disney posted revenue of $13.1 billion, marking a 5% revenue increase year over-year. This falls short of the Street’s estimate of $13.22 billion, and marks an end to Disney’s seven-quarter run of beating sales estimates. Disney attributes the miss to currency-exchange headwinds, which have impacted the cable TV and international theme park businesses.
The earnings beat is largely driven by its studio and consumer products unit, the incredibly popular Frozen franchise and other strong box-office performances, as well as the success of its themeparks business. However, investors are concerned by a declining number of subscribers at sports channel ESPN, as viewers move away from cable packages to standalone streaming services.
Disney CEO Bob Iger discussed ESPN for a large part of Disney’s conference call on Tuesday, defending ESPN amidst the “changing media landscape”. Iger commented, “ESPN’s experienced some modest sub losses although those have been less than reported by one of the prominent research firms and the vast majority of them, 80%, were due to decreases in multichannel households with only a small percentage due to skinny packages. Overall though we believe the expanded basic package will remain the dominant package of choice for some years to come, because to the quality and variety it represents for a price that is generally considered fair and appropriate…” Iger added, “ESPN is the number one brand in sports media and one of the most valuable brands in all sports and among the most popular, respected and valuable brands in media, by consumers, advertisers, and distributors.”
J.P. Morgan analyst Alexia Quadrani weighed in on Disney on August 5 in light of the company’s Q3 earnings, reiterating a Buy rating on the stock with a price target of $130. Quadrani commented, “Disney continues to be our top pick in Media for its consistent content execution and earnings strength that has produced six consecutive ‘beat and raise’ quarters. While we adjusted estimates last month to account for Tomorrowland’s weak performance (we assume a $100m impact), we expect earnings strength elsewhere across the company – including Consumer Products, Parks and Media Networks – and see upside potential to our $1.40 EPS for FQ3.”
The analyst believes “Disney is set up well to continue its robust outperformance through its unrivaled global content portfolio, especially as it begins to monetize Lucas/Star Wars more aggressively through Episode VII’s release in December (with consumer products sales ramping into the open) and Shanghai Disneyland opening next spring.”
Additionally, Quadrani addressed ESPN, noting, “We also see ESPN as an enduring asset that should continue to deliver earnings strength in a shifting distribution landscape.” Moreover, Quadrani acknowledged “the ecosystem is changing and sub declines will remain a headwind for cable networks growth. Despite the challenge, the analyst maintained, “Disney is the best positioned amongst its peers with some of the most highly demanded content, and can offset much of these declines with established rate increases and growth in [over-the-top] platforms.”
Alexia Quadrani has rated Disney 10 times since 2011, earning a 90% success rate recommending the stock and a +24% average return per Disney recommendation when measured over a one-year horizon and no benchmark. Overall, she has a 74% success rate recommending stocks and a +12.6% average return per recommendation.
Similarly on August 5, FBR Capital analyst Barton Crockett reiterated a Buy rating on the Disney stock with a price target of $124, noting, “[Disney’s] earnings could be a little bit lower than consensus here, but I think that this is just really, kind of a tempest in a teapot.” The analyst continued, “the bigger story in Disney is they are on a great trajectory…they are spending this quarter on ramping up more sports in the US, they have got a higher contract with the NFL, they have launched an NCC network, you know these things are paying dividends over time…” Crockett also referenced the incredible success of the movie Frozen, the development of theme parks in China, and the evolution of Disney as a great content company.
Barton Crockett has rated Disney 9 times since 2012, earning a 89% success rate recommending the company and a +27.8% average return per recommendation when measured over a one-year horizon and no benchmark. Overall, he has a 61% success rate recommending stocks and a +13.7% average return per recommendation.
Out of 17 analysts polled by TipRanks, 10 are bullish on Disney and 7 are neutral. The average 12-month price target for Disney is $118.73, marking a 7.42% potential upside from where the stock last closed. On average, the all-analyst consensus for Disney is Moderate Buy.