Disney Earns Its Ears

Mickey Mouse still has it.

Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) posted a better-than-expected fiscal first quarter last night. Earnings per share soared 55% to $0.68 a share, growing roughly twice as fast as analysts were targeting. Revenue notched a 10% uptick to $10.7 billion.

Four of Disney's five segments posted double-digit gains in operating profit. The lone holdout was the company's recently restructured interactive media department. The family entertainment giant has struggled to steer the gaming division toward profitability.

Media networks remain Disney's best performer, accounting for nearly half of the quarter's $2.2 billion in operating income. Net margins widened substantially at both its ABC-fueled broadcasting arm and the ESPN-led cable division.

Disney's theme parks continue to bounce back, though there was some operating weakness at its cruise line. That's surprising given the encouraging industry news out of Royal Caribbean (NYSE: RCL  ) , Carnival (NYSE: CCL  ) , and shipboard spa operator Steiner Leisure (Nasdaq: STNR  ) lately. Disney's third ship joined the fleet last month, so the tourist magnet better make sure that it doesn't price itself out of the market given the extra capacity.

Disney's consumer products segment benefited from the inclusion of Marvel, though its studio business clocked in flat on the top line.

Mickey Mouse really needed this quarter. CEO Bob Iger rarely misses on the bottom line, but that's exactly what Disney did three months ago.

An improving economy should help Disney all around from here. The stock's already at a multi-year high, so one can argue that recovery has already been priced into the shares. It's not just a Disney thing. Regional amusement park operators Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN  ) and Six Flags (NYSE: SIX  ) hit new highs this week, too.

We can quibble about the operating losses at Disney's interactive media segment or wonder if Disney's cruise ships can get past last quarter's choppy waters, but Disney's too big to expect it to crank out a perfect quarter.

Last night it delivered a nearly perfect quarter -- and that's good enough for Wall Street.

How much of your money went to Disney last year? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Walt Disney is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Walt Disney is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. 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.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can usually be found at Walt Disney World. Not today, though. He does own shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2011, at 8:27 PM, esxokm wrote:

    Disney hopefully won't rest on its laurels. One thing CEO B. Iger must do is aggressively reduce the costs of marketing/producing content. I don't believe the company has made a dent in this area of opportunity.

    I see the stock heading toward $50.

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