Shares of Disney (DIS -1.16%) are climbing again, and it may not be long before the stock breaks into the triple digits. You have to go all the way back to mid-July to find the last time that Disney stock closed north of $100, but the ingredients are starting to fall into place for another run.
The latest Wall Street pros to turn bullish on the media giant are Deutsche Bank analysts Bryan Kraft and Clay Griffin, who upgraded Disney stock from hold to buy this morning. They're slapping a price target of $112 on the blue chip.
Deutsche Bank sees a return to double-digit bottom-line growth come fiscal 2018, and it sees a turnaround in some of Disney's businesses and market acceptance of the challenges facing the other subsidiaries.
Around the horn
ESPN defections continue, but the analysts see the migration decelerating. ESPN continues to pop up in streaming TV pay bundles, ideally offsetting some of the sting when it comes to traditional cable and satellite television providers. We're also approaching a new wave of ESPN contract renewals later this new fiscal year, something that should boost revenue as cable providers compensate the sports-programming network for the big content deals it has inked in recent years. Media networks -- Disney's largest business -- may take a step back in fiscal 2017 in terms of operating income, but that's already baked into the current stock price.
Fiscal 2017 will also pose some challenges on the theatrical-production front. Fiscal 2016 began with the rebirth of the Star Wars franchise, and Disney has gone on to put out some of this calendar year's biggest box-office hits. It will make the new fiscal year a hard act to follow, but the home-entertainment market should help pick up some of the slack as this year's hits trickle through the distribution channels, and Disney keeps making deals for its content to hit popular digital outlets.
Disney's theme parks -- the House of Mouse's second-largest business -- should continue to improve. Spending per capita has been growing at a healthy clip, and attendance at Disney World finally turned around after back-to-back quarters of declines. Disneyland is the one now eyeing back-to-back quarters of lower turnstile clicks, but things should get better for the entire segment now that Shanghai's pre-opening costs are in the rearview mirror.
Coming up for air
Disney was one of three stocks trading in double digits that I singled out in a June column, wondering when the three former market darlings would return to $100. The other two stocks are now trading comfortably in the triple digits.
All three stocks began the calendar year north of $100, only to fall out of fancy with investors. Disney has been the lone holdout, and with weakness at ESPN and its theme-park attendance struggles this year, that may be understandable. However, it's hard to deny the long-term appeal of Disney and its unique businesses and franchises. The stock is ticking its way back to $100, and if the bulls have it right, this time it will stay there.