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3 Things That Can Go Wrong for Disney on Tuesday

By Rick Munarriz - Feb 5, 2018 at 9:22AM

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The media giant gears up for an important quarterly report.

Media stocks have generally fallen out of favor as the market adjusts their perceived value, but Walt Disney (DIS 3.69%) has held up better than the rest of the pack. Disney's diversified portfolio and valuable intellectual properties have served it well, even if Disney stock has lagged the market in recent years. 

Disney will step up with fresh financials on Tuesday, posting its fiscal first-quarter results shortly after the market close. There's a lot riding on the report. Disney shares have stayed above $100 for nearly three months, and it's going to need a well-received quarterly report to stay there. Let's go over a few things that could trip Disney up on Tuesday afternoon. 

Mad Hatter, Rabbit, and Alice in front of the Mad Tea Party attraction.

Image source: Disney.

1. Star Wars may not be enough

Star Wars: The Last Jedi hit theaters during Disney's fiscal first quarter, and while it was the highest-grossing film to roll out during the 2017 calendar year, it was actually a bit of a disappointment. The $614.5 million that it has grossed domestically and $1.32 billion it scored worldwide finds it falling woefully short of Star Wars: The Force Awakens two years earlier. 

The eighth installment in the sci-fi saga was a hit with movie critics, but many diehard fans panned the movie. Disney made a big bet on the franchise when it paid more than $4 billion for Lucasfilm. Investors may be wondering if Star Wars fatigue is setting in at the worst possible time, as 14-acre Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge expansion is set to open at Disneyland and Disney World next year with the ninth installment in the series due out later that year. 

Investors will be looking for some color in Tuesday's report. We know the box office results have been a letdown, but Disney could offer hope with a peek on how Star Wars-themed consumer products fared over the holidays. Some insight into the Solo: A Star Wars Story movie that hits multiplexes in three months could also help.  

2. Disney can fall short again

Analysts aren't holding out for much. They see revenue climbing 5% to $15.46 billion, with the bottom line growing even slower -- rising 4% to $1.61 a share. Many of its rivals would kill for any kind of growth, but investors expect more. Disney also fell short last time out, a rare miss on the bottom line during Bob Iger's tenure as CEO.

Companies typically find a way to land ahead of lowballing Wall Street pros, and missing profit forecasts in back-to-back quarters could rattle the faith of investors. It's true that the market is holding out for just meager growth, but Disney needs to at least live up to those expectations. 

3. It can't all be theme parks for Disney

Fiscal 2017 was challenging for Disney. Revenue and earnings declined for the first time since 2009, and each of its operating segments outside of its theme parks business experienced a decline in revenue and segment operating profit. The trend is problematic if it continues, as theme parks and resorts make up just a third of Disney's revenue and even less of its bottom-line results. 

There should be some relief for Disney this time around. Movie studio comparisons will be easier with Star Wars: The Last Jedi pitted against a weaker performing slate in the first quarter of fiscal 2017. The theme parks should once again hold up well. The wild cards here are Disney's flagship media networks and consumer products divisions. If challenges continue on both of those fronts, investors may dismiss the short-lived bounce for its studio business. Disney doesn't have to hit on all cylinders to win investors over, but it can't afford to lean too heavily on its lower-margin theme parks business to bring home the cheese.

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