The coronavirus crash has spared almost no stock.
Growth stocks and value plays, stalwarts and start-ups, they've all fallen as the market experienced its fastest correction ever, falling more than 10% from its all-time high in just six sessions.
Among the stocks that tumbled was Walt Disney (DIS 1.08%). The usually stable entertainment giant is down 14% since Feb. 21, and has fallen more than 20% from its all-time high in November. For a reliable profit machine like Disney, that's a substantial decline.
It's easy to see why the stock has fallen, though. All three of its theme parks in Asia are now closed. Much of its resorts business remains threatened by the coronavirus outbreak, which hammered the travel and tourism industries, and investors are also nervous after the surprise announcement that CEO Bob Iger was stepping down.
However, Disney stock is starting to look unreasonably cheap as investors seem to have forgotten about the positive catalysts that drove it to a record just a few months ago. Let's take a look at few reasons why Disney stock may have just bottomed out.
1. Disney+ is about to launch in Europe
Disney+ has wowed both investors and consumers thus far. The service, which is stocked with Disney classics, content from Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and National Geographic, and new programming like The Mandalorian, had already registered nearly 30 million sign-ups by Feb. 4, almost all of them in North America.
The service will launch in Western Europe on March 24, hitting the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, and Ireland. Those countries have more than 300 million people combined, a similar population to North America. That could give Disney+ a chance to double its membership. It's a good bet that the launch will be a similar success to the one in the U.S. last November, as Disney is a truly global brand. Such a European debut would reignite the investor enthusiasm that Disney+ sparked when the company first announced the service last April and when it revealed that it had 10 million sign-ups when it launched in November.
Keep in mind that Disney had originally targeted 60 million to 90 million global subscribers by 2024. A successful launch in Europe could put the company on track to reach the bottom end of that range by the end of this year.
2. The Iger news is overblown
During the market's worst week in a decade, Disney poured gasoline on the fire by announcing that CEO Bob Iger, who's guided the company since 2005, would be stepping down immediately to be replaced by Bob Chapek, Disney's chief of its Parks, Experiences and Products business.
Iger is one of the most respected leaders in business. Under his leadership, Disney evolved into the behemoth it is today through a series of savvy acquisitions, including Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars-owner Lucasfilm, and most recently Fox. Iger also laid the groundwork for the successful launch of Disney+, and opened Shanghai Disneyland.
The announcement took the investing world by surprise, and Iger's decision to vacate the CEO chair "immediately" caused some suspicion that there was another issue at play here. However, that doesn't appear to be the case. Iger's retirement had already been delayed by years as he made moves like the Fox acquisition and the Disney+ launch, and he will remain with the company through next year as Executive Chairman and to direct the company's "creative endeavors." On an analyst call to discuss the move, Iger said that he made the decision because the creative side of the business will become the company's biggest priority next year, now that the blueprint for future growth is in place with the Fox acquisition and the Disney+ launch.
3. The parks will reopen
No one knows how long the coronavirus outbreak will last or how widespread it will be, but one thing's clear. This is a temporary issue. Disney's parks that are closed in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo will reopen. In fact, there are already signs that life is beginning to return to normal in China. Starbucks has reopened most of its stores that were closed, and Apple said that the factories it relies on are getting up and running again. It follows that Disney's Chinese theme parks could soon reopen as well. The Tokyo resort, meanwhile, is scheduled to open March 16 after it closed to accommodate a request from the Japanese government.
Disney warned that closures of the Shanghai and Hong Kong parks could wipe out $280 million in operating income in its fiscal second quarter. That's a significant sum, but over the long term, it's important to remember that the virus is a temporary headwind for the company, and Disney will bounce back. In fact, the reopening of its parks could act as a catalyst for the stock's recovery.
Disney is nearly a century old, it owns a diverse array of businesses, and its portfolio of brands is unrivaled in entertainment. It will overcome the coronavirus, and when it does, the stock will almost certainly be higher than it is today.