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Disney's Star Turn

You've got to hand it to Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) CEO Bob Iger. He keeps impressing investors. Wednesday morning, the family entertainment company blew past analyst profit targets for its third quarter on refreshingly wider margins.

Earnings rose 36% to $0.53 a share, with revenues inching up by 12% to hit $8.6 billion. Wall Street nailed the top-line production but was expecting profits to only grow to $0.44 a share. This isn't the first time that Disney has made mincemeat out of analyst estimates since Iger took over. Over the past year, Disney has trounced quarterly profit targets by at least a nickel a share. No, you can't blame all of the success on Iger's transition to power. This hasn't been a radical makeover at the top like we're seeing with CEO Mark Hurd over at Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) . Still, it's hard to argue with success or pass on the chance to rub Iger's rabbit's foot and admire his perfect timing.

Digging deeper into the numbers, you find a company that improved in all four of its business segments. More than half of the 32% increase in operating profits for the quarter can be attributed to the turnaround in the studio entertainment segment. Those Chronicles ofNarnia DVDs have been selling like hotcakes, and the future looks pretty good now that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Cars are the two top-grossing movies of the year.

Free cash flow dropped for the period but is 65% higher through the first nine months of the fiscal year. That is mostly the result of Disney's improving financial state and lower investments at its theme parks. But it's not as if lower capital spending hurt the parks segment. Disney's parks and resorts business posted an 11% improvement in revenues and a 26% increase in operating profits. That paints a more favorable industry portrait than the disappointing results out of regional operators Six Flags (NYSE: SIX  ) and Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN  ) did last week.

Disney didn't miss this quarter. We can nitpick and point out how operating margins contracted in the same media networks stronghold that has led Disney's turnaround over the past two years, but there was still year-over-year improvement there in absolute terms. Well done, Disney. Well done, Iger. How much for that rabbit's foot?

Disney is a recommendation in theMotley Fool Stock Advisornewsletter service. Cedar Fair has been singled out to Income Investor subscribers.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz knows he contributed to Disney's bottom line during the quarter. He always does. He owns shares in Disney and units in Cedar Fair.The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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10/28/2016 4:03 PM
DIS $93.85 Down -0.17 -0.18%
Walt Disney CAPS Rating: *****
FUN $56.81 Up +0.22 +0.39%
Cedar Fair, L.P. CAPS Rating: ****
HPQ $14.09 Up +0.10 +0.71%
HP CAPS Rating: ***
SIX $54.17 Up +0.89 +1.67%
Six Flags CAPS Rating: **