Disney Posts Solid Earnings Growth Despite a Big Film Impairment Charge

Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse waving with Cinderella Castle in background.

Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) reported solid fiscal third-quarter 2018 results after the market close on Tuesday.

The entertainment giant's revenue increased 7% year over year, GAAP earnings per share soared 18%, and EPS adjusted for one-time factors jumped 18%. As expected, strength in the parks and movie businesses once again drove growth, while profits declined in the media and consumer goods segments.

Disney's key quarterly numbers

Data source: Disney. GAAP = generally accepted accounting principles.

Cash generated from operations declined 10% year over year to $3.68 billion, and free cash flow declined 25% to $2.46 billion. These metrics can bounce around considerably quarter to quarter depending upon the company's investments for growth.

Disney doesn't provide guidance. For some context (though long-term investors shouldn't place too much emphasis on Wall Street's near-term estimates), analysts were looking for adjusted EPS of $1.96 on revenue of $15.32 billion. So the company fell short of both expectations.

Here's how the three largest segments performed:

Media networks: Cable's declining profits continue to be the main narrative

Data source: Disney.

Here's how the two businesses within this segment -- cable and broadcast -- peformed:

Data source: Disney.

Cable's operating-income decline was due to a loss at BAMTech, as Disney continues to invest heavily in this streaming technology platform. That more than offset ESPN's higher year-over-year results. The company continued to lose cable subscribers in the quarter.

While details change quarter to quarter, the main narrative for the media business has remained constant in recent years: Profits in the cable business are under pressure due to consumers increasingly cutting the cord and adopting video-streaming options.

CEO Bob Iger talked on the earnings call about the company's direct-to-consumer streaming initiatives. Regarding ESPN+ , which launched in April, he said "subscription growth is exceeding our expectations." He also noted the company is "on track for a late 2019 launch of our Disney branded streaming service," adding that it "already [has] numerous original projects currently in various stages of development and production for this platform, including the world's first live-action Star Wars series."

Iger talked a lot on the call about the company's pending huge acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox 's entertainment assets. The main takeaways are that Disney management expects to realize big synergies from this marriage and that the company is now "working to secure the remaining regulatory approvals in a number of international territories."

Parks and resorts: Old reliable comes through

Data source: Disney.

The parks segment continued to have good bench strength, with domestic and international parks and the cruise line all performing well. Growth in international parks was driven by Shanghai Disney and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

The segment's performance was particularly impressive given that the quarter only included one of the two weeks of the Easter holiday period, whereas the year-ago quarter included both weeks. CFO Christine McCarthy said on the earnings call that this fiscal-year timing issue hurt operating income by about $47 million, shaving approximately 4 percentage points off the segment's year-over-year profit growth.

McCarthy also listed some stats, including:

  • Per-capita spending at domestic parks rose 5% year over year, driven by higher ticket prices and increased spending on food and beverage, and merchandise.
  • Per-room spending at domestic hotels jumped 8%.
  • Attendance at domestic parks edged up 1% and "reflects about a 1-percentage-point adverse impact from the timing of the Easter holiday."

Studio entertainment: Profit growth curtailed by an impairment charge

Data source: Disney.

Studio's operating income growth doesn't adequately reflect the segment's strong operational performance. That's because of "about $100 million of film impairments in the quarter primarily related to two unreleased titles," McCarthy said on the call.

Growth was largely driven by the powerful theatrical performances of the two movies released in the quarter, Avengers: Infinity War and Pixar's The Incredibles 2. The Avengers film "has grossed over $2 billion globally, making it Marvel's highest grossing film of all time," while " Incredibles 2 is the top domestic-grossing animated film ever, and has generated over $1 billion in global box to date," McCarthy said. Combined, this dynamic duo did better at the box office than the two films released in the year-ago quarter, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and Cars 3 .

Looking ahead

Disney managed to turn in a solid quarter, despite the film impairment charge, rising programming costs, and the headwind in parks from the timing of the Easter holiday.

Major catalysts for growth on the horizon include a robust movie lineup through next year, the launch of the Disney-branded streaming service in late 2019, and the pending acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox's entertainment assets.

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The author(s) may have a position in any stocks mentioned.

Beth McKenna has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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