Referring to The Walt Disney Company (DIS 0.17%) as anything less than an integral part of America's culture would be a disservice to 96 years of record-making history.
From its studio entertainment and media networks to its direct-to-consumer and international segments, Disney touches the lives of millions. Its ongoing business operations show no signs of slowing down -- and that was made clear in its latest earnings release.
In its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report, released Nov. 7, the company's revenue increased by 34% year over year and topped earnings-per-share (EPS) expectations by $0.12. In response, Disney's stock surged more than 5%.
Although earnings-per-share (EPS) fell 72% year over year, Disney still looks to be in a strong financial position when its massive, one-time purchases of Twenty-First Century Fox and Hulu are stripped out of the earnings-per-share equation next year.
Disney has proven through its decades in business that it can weather just about any economic environment. And thanks to the company's growing consumer base, recession resiliency, and widely diversified business segments, Disney's future remains bright -- at least for the next 50 years. Of course, Disney may have more than just 50 years of success ahead. But it can be helpful to consider 50 years as a reference point for the lifetime of a standard adult investor.
Here are 3 top reasons why Disney is a stock to buy and hold for a lifetime.
1. Disney isn't just for children
For investors, a growing consumer base is a sign that a company is doing well -- and Disney has just that.
Last year, about 3.8 million babies were born in the U.S. If Disney is able to capture just 20% of this market per year -- and assuming that the birth rate stays consistent -- that would equate to roughly 760,000 new customers added each year, each of them born a potential consumer of Disney content. Disney's brands are such an integral part of society that nearly everyone is bound to interact with the company at some point during childhood.
And although it's no secret that kids love Disney, parents are just as enamored. In fact, parents are a major factor in cultivating their children's love of Disney brands. What's more, it's not just parents who love the company: across the globe, 157 million people visited a Disney theme park in 2018. Surprisingly, only 36.7% of those guests have children under 18.
Even though much of Disney's content is primarily aimed at children, older consumers are able to relive their childhood through the nostalgia of familiar characters, songs, and parks. The company's reach stretches across all generations: many of its most beloved characters (for example, Mickey Mouse, Bambi, Dumbo, Pinocchio, and Snow White) were introduced over 75 years ago.
2. Disney can weather any economic environment
When the economy is in rough shape, consumers look to distract themselves from their problems through cheap forms of entertainment -- and Disney provides an array of entertainment options for consumers to choose from.
So far this year , four of the top five grossing films in 2019 were distributed by Disney. And even if a recession were to strike in the near future, there might be a silver lining for Disney's movies: box office attendance has historically increased during recessions as consumers look for brief periods of low-cost respite from economic troubles.
With the addition of the wildly popular Disney+ streaming service, the company adds yet another recession-proof stream of revenue.
How might streaming services fare during a recession? Although the streaming service industry is relatively new, we may be able to use Netflix (NFLX 5.54%) as a proxy. In the doldrums of the 2008 recession, Netflix continued steadily adding subscribers. If the economy contracts, it wouldn't be surprising to see Disney+ subscriptions continue to grow.
What's more, Disney even may be able to steal some customers away from Netflix during a recession due to its lower price point. Disney+ is offered at $6.99 per month while Netflix's most popular plan is offered at $12.99 a month.
3. Disney is an enormous conglomerate that's firing on all cylinders
To top it all off, it's clear that Disney is highly diversified.
The number of companies that Disney owns -- Hulu, Marvel Entertainment/Studios, Fox Entertainment Group, ESPN, Steamboat Ventures, and ABC Entertainment group just to name a few -- create an array of resources that few companies can match.
This means that Disney isn't reliant on just one portion of its business to drive profits. If necessary, management can leverage other segments, or even divest underperforming companies if the price is right.
Right now, each of those segments is performing nicely. On a year-over-year basis, revenues for Disney's media networks grew 22%, parks and product revenues grew by 8%, studio entertainment revenues grew by 52%, and its direct-to-consumer and international segment grew over 100%.
In addition to its plethora of holdings, Disney also has a strong international presence. Disney has a physical presence in over 30 countries, and its channels are available in 133 countries.
Disney's high level of diversification means that investors have a less concentrated risk with more opportunities for return.