Foolish Forecast: Halt, Disney!

Fix up your ears and straighten that tail -- it's almost time for Wednesday's quarterly report from Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) and his cheery gang. Should we go all goofy over the company, or is it a real Minnie Mouse operation? Let's have a look.

What analysts say:

  • Buy, sell, or waffle? Twenty-five analysts cover the House of Mouse. Of them 13 are buyers, 11 prefer holding, and the last guy has a dissenting sell rating on the stock. The story in Motley Fool CAPS is rather similar: it's a four-star stock based on a healthy phalanx of 1,760 participants.
  • Revenues. $9.05 billion would make your average Wall Street firm happy. That's 5% above the $8.62 billion sold last year.
  • Earnings. The analyst consensus says $0.54 per share, hardly budging from the year-ago $0.53 tally per share.

What management says:
In the last earnings call, CEO Bob Iger highlighted how the ongoing "Year of a Million Dreams" promotion is pulling in boatloads of customers through Disney's park turnstiles the world over. Disney World set a new Easter attendance record this year; the company is opening up new rides and attractions everywhere; and the theme park segment reported a 19% yearly increase in operating income last quarter. Even Disneyland delivered better numbers than last year, despite the comparison with the park's 50-year anniversary happening a year ago.

What management does:
Since Iger took over the wheel of Steamboat Willie about 18 months ago, things have been looking up. Revenue growth picked up the pace almost immediately, and the margins kicked into high gear a couple of quarters ago. Together, those trends have produced truly stellar earnings improvements considering Disney's sheer size.

Margins

12/2005

4/2006

7/2006

9/2006

12/2006

3/2007

Gross

14.1%

14.3%

15.4%

17.1%

18.4%

19.3%

Operating

15.6%

15.7%

16.8%

18.5%

19.7%

20.7%

Net

8.0%

8.2%

8.9%

9.8%

12.3%

12.9%

FCF/Revenue

9.4%

11.8%

10.8%

13.9%

13.2%

14.9%

Y-O-Y Growth

12/2005

4/2006

7/2006

9/2006

12/2006

3/2007

Revenue

4.1%

2.6%

4.7%

7.3%

9.4%

8.9%

Earnings

10.2%

7.9%

11.3%

33.2%

68.2%

70.8%

All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance for the quarters ended in the named months.

One Fool says:
I'm a Disney shareholder, and a very happy one -- it's one of my best-performing holdings over the past year and a half. Iger gets pretty much all of the credit in my book, because he cleaned out a management team and corporate culture in shambles, installing capable leaders and creative visionaries in positions of high responsibility, and letting his new lieutenants loose to do their thing, their way.

This is a large and complex business, with a worldwide reach and one of the most recognizable brand names in existence. There's plenty of geographic diversity in Disney's sales and income, and much like General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) , these four-fingered hands are sticking their gloved fingers in several pies. Okay, so there's no industrial manufacturing here, but the movie library is only the first domino to tip in a loooong sequence that includes those theme parks, consumer goods with Mickey ears, cruise lines for stressed-out parents, and a grab-bag of very successful television networks -- cable and otherwise.

All-American and worldwide at the same time -- what a perfect combination. For an early indication of what to expect, Euro Disney already reported 12% higher sales over last year in constant currency on strong hotel bookings and better park attendance. Let's see if that performance can't be repeated stateside, too.

Disney is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try the newsletter free for 30 days to read why the company earned its mouse ears from Tom and David Gardner.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Disney shareholder, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure sounds funny when read in a Donald Duck voice.


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