Walt Disney (DIS 0.99%) shares are rolling again, and the rally's first big test comes on Wednesday afternoon when the media giant reports financial results. Analysts aren't holding out for much. They see revenue actually declining -- down 1.1% to hit $14.39 billion -- for the fiscal second quarter.
The prognosis isn't any kinder on the bottom line with Wall Street pros expecting per-share earnings to fall to $1.59 from $1.84 for the quarter. There are a lot of moving parts to Disney's growing empire. Let's go over some of the things that can derail the rally in Disney stock.
1. Present reality can't live up to future hype
If Disney rallying just as it's about to likely post declines on both ends of its income statement seems odd, it's time to consider the catalysts. There are three beefy pieces of good news -- one in each of its three major businesses -- driving the stock higher in recent weeks.
- Disney+ had a well-received media event on April 11, surprising the market with aggressively affordable pricing and a strong content pipeline.
- Avengers: Endgame has shattered box office records since debuting two weeks ago.
- On the theme park front, the first phase of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will be coming to its California and then Florida resorts sooner than it was originally forecasting.
None of these events will enhance Disney's fiscal second quarter that ended in March. Marvel's bar-raising flick didn't hit the multiplex until late April. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge won't open until the end of this month in Disneyland and late August for Disney World. Disney+ has a mid-November launch date. Investors should be smart enough to know the difference between the unimpressive recent past and the more exciting future, but the disconnect may be lost in the ho-hum headline numbers on Wednesday.
2. Theme park comparisons will be challenging
Disney's theme parks business has been its steadiest performer over the years, but the timing of the Easter holiday will weigh on traffic trends through the first three months of this calendar year. The seasonally potent Easter break took place in April this year, so it won't be scored until the fiscal third quarter. The week leading up to Easter Sunday landed on March last year.
We saw the roles of the quarters flipped last year, and that resulted in a 13% increase in the fiscal second quarter followed by a 6% advance in the fiscal third quarter. Disney's been boosting ticket prices and attendance seems to be holding up, but it probably won't be a period of double-digit growth for its pace-setting theme parks division. Disney's closest rival in Florida and California -- Comcast's Universal Studios -- posted a rare decline in revenue for the same three months earlier this earnings season.
3. Other comparisons may not be flattering
It's not just the iconic parks that will have hard acts to follow. Disney's studio entertainment came through with a 21% surge in revenue during last year's fiscal second quarter, fueled by the box office success of Black Panther and the home video release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Things also remain dicey with its media networks arm. Disney's media networks segment grew its revenue by just 4% in fiscal 2018, and with a decline in segment operating income to boot. Folks continue to cut the cord, and Disney+ is still six months away from giving the disrupted a shot at disruption. The key to Disney here -- and on all fronts -- is to make sure that it sells the promise of the near future if it fails to wow the market with its second-quarter performance.