Try This Theme Park Operator!

In light of record-high market prices, The Walt Disney Company might be the best way to diversify away from the US and gain some good international exposure! This is especially true when you consider that Comcast, Six Flags, and SeaWorld are nowhere near as diversified!

Jul 23, 2014 at 10:00AM


Source: Disney

Do you think that the US economy is going to get worse, or that the stock market, after reaching a new all-time high, will take a beating? If so, one of the best theme park operators, and companies period, for protection against downside in the US might be The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS). Even though it has a domestic base and derives a lot of its revenue from home instead of abroad, the entertainment giant has a large amount of global exposure stemming from its theme park operations that could buoy your portfolio in the event of a downturn.

Parks and resorts is big business!
Although rivals like Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA)-owned NBCUniversal, Six Flags Entertainment (NYSE:SIX), and SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS) are big players in the theme park industry, no company can measure up to the success seen by Disney in recent years. As of the end of 2013, Disney boasted a complete or at least partial stake in nine of the ten most-visited theme parks in the world and two of the five most-visited water parks.

As a result of its No. 1 market position, Disney rakes in billions every year from these locations. In fact, in 2013, Disney's parks and resorts segment reported its best year ever with sales of $14.1 billion, 19% greater than the $11.8 billion management reported just two years earlier. This segment is far larger and growing much more rapidly than any of its peers.

(theme park revenue in millions) 2013 2012 2011
Disney $14,087 $12,920 $11,797
Six Flags $1,110 $1,070 $1,013
SeaWorld $1,460 $1,424 $1,331
Comcast $2,235 $2,085 $1,989

Sources: Disney, Six Flags, SeaWorld, and Comcast

Over the same three-year period, for instance, Six Flags saw its revenue climb just 10% from $1 billion to $1.1 billion, while SeaWorld saw its revenue grow from $1.3 billion to almost $1.5 billion. The best performer over this period, with the exception of Disney, was Comcast's NBCUniversal as its theme parks segment reported a 12% rise in revenue from almost $2 billion to $2.2 billion.

But revenue isn't everything... how diverse is the business?
While the hub of Disney's parks and resorts segment is in the US, as evidenced by its 25,000-acre Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, its 510-acre Disneyland Resort in California, and its Aulani 21-acre Disney Resort and Spa in Hawaii, the company has significant ownership interests abroad. One of its biggest is Disneyland Paris.


Source: Disney

In 1992, the company opened Disneyland Paris, a 5,510-acre development in Marne-la-Vallee. The resort, which Disney owns a 51% interest in, consists of hotels, shopping centers, a 27-hole golf facility, Disneyland Park, and Walt Disney Studios Park.

A much smaller operation is the company's Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, a 310-acre resort located on Lantau Island that Disney owns 48% of (Hong Kong's government owns the remaining 52%). In late 2016, this resort plans to open up its eighth themed area based on Marvel's Iron Man.

In addition to the aforementioned operations, Disney also owns 43% of the Shanghai Disney Resort. With construction in progress and operations set to commence by the end of 2015, Disney's stake in the 1,000-acre resort will give the company its second nice piece of real estate in China and its third in Asia as a whole.


Source: Hong Kong Disneyland

Finally, we arrive at Tokyo Disney Resort, a 494-acre theme park located in Japan. Although it would be nice for Disney to claim an equity piece in the business like it has with its other international locations, the business can only lay claim to a royalty agreement whereby the park's owner (Oriental Land Co.) pays the business an undisclosed percentage of its revenue.

Disney's peers have much less exposure internationally
When it comes to size and popularity, Disney's theme parks are second to none, but when it comes to quantity, it's hard to beat Six Flags. According to Six Flags, the company is the largest theme park operator in the world as measured by theme park count. With 18 locations currently in operation, the business makes for an interesting prospect for the Foolish investor, but with just two of those abroad (one in Mexico City and the other in Montreal), it's not a great play for investors who are looking for international exposure.


Source: Universal Studios Japan

 Another big player in the quantity arena is SeaWorld. With 11 parks in operation, five of which fit in the list of North America's top 20, this water-loving entertainment business is an interesting prospect for investors who are looking for alternative theme parks. However, the business has one downside; it has no international exposure.

The only company with a portfolio anywhere near as large as that of Disney is Comcast. According to the company's most recent annual report, it owned the Wet 'n Wild water park in Florida, as well as two major resorts, Universal Orlando and Universal Hollywood. Outside of this network, however, Comcast also licenses its Universal brand out to third parties that own Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Singapore.

Foolish takeaway
Disney has an impressive and diversified asset base that's difficult to compete with. On top of being the largest business in the theme park/resort market, the entertainment giant has broad exposure not just within the US, but also across Asia and in Europe. While this kind of diversification does not guarantee success, it does illustrate the market presence of Disney, and also shows that some parts of its business can still perform attractively even in the event of an economic or market correction. Given this trait, it's pretty easy to guess that Disney won't make you rich overnight but, instead (and more importantly), the company has what it takes to create a great deal of shareholder value over the long run.

Disney looks poised to get a heck of a lot bigger!
You know cable's going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, Disney and two other companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple. 


Daniel Jones has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information