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Better Buy: Disney vs. Home Depot

By Parkev Tatevosian – May 12, 2020 at 7:11AM

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Which of these large-cap consumer goods companies is the better long-term investment?

Disney (DIS -2.60%) and Home Depot (HD 0.67%) are on opposite sides of the spectrum right now. Disney has had to temporarily close down some of its most lucrative revenue-generating operations, while Home Depot has been deemed essential and is experiencing increasing demand.

Cities, states, and countries are beginning to lift stay-at-home restrictions around the world as the coronavirus pandemic is showing signs of easing. Businesses are making preparations for a return of some level of normalcy when customers are allowed to venture out to more places. Still, the containment efforts in the U.S. have had a substantial effect on jobs. Over 30 million workers have filed for unemployment benefits since closures were put in place to fight the outbreak. 

An evening fireworks display with a Disney castle in the background

Disney+ susbscriber growth is a bright spot. Image source: Getty Images.

Will families return to Disney parks anytime soon? 

The House of Mouse is facing a challenging future in the near term. Its parks, hotels, and cruise ships have had to close temporarily, and it's missing out on billions in revenue. Furthermore, since movie theaters are mostly closed, it's losing potentially billions more. Thank goodness for the release of its streaming service Disney+.

The one bright spot for the Burbank, California company is the streaming service, which reached 54.5 million subscribers as of May 5. As people around the world are staying at home more often, demand for in-home entertainment has soared. Disney initially estimated it would have between 60 million to 90 million subscribers by 2024. With more than six months left to go in 2020, it would not be surprising if it reached the low end of that forecast by the end of the year. 

The segment that includes Disney parks generated $6.7 billion in operating income for fiscal 2019. Park closures and the uncertainty surrounding when families will feel safe in large crowds make it likely that operating income from the segment will be substantially lower this year. Still, visiting a Disney park is an experience that families around the world cherish. It's not known if people will feel comfortable visiting a theme park before we have a vaccine or a treatment for the coronavirus. However, when it is safe to be in large crowds again, the pent-up demand for visitors is going to be incredible. 

The absence of any major sports over the last few months is also causing a surge in demand. The Last Dance, a docuseries following the final season Michael Jordan spent with the Chicago Bulls, saw record viewership, and it was the same with the NFL draft, which drew 55 million viewers during the three-day event. In the short run, when sports leagues restart, with or without audiences, it will give the company a boost in revenue and cash flow from advertisers and offset the losses from parks to some degree. 

Overall, the company recognizes it is facing difficult circumstances and is buckling down with survival measures such as raising $6 billion in cash and reducing expenses by furloughing employees. Disney will make it to the other side of this pandemic, but what that other side looks like may be a lot different. 

An associate stocking a shelf at Home Depot

Home Depot stores remained open during coronavirus lockdowns. Image source: Getty Images.

Was staying open a good thing for Home Depot?  

From 2015-2020, Home Depot has compounded annual revenue at 5.8% -- an impressive number for a brick-and-mortar retailer. Furthermore, the company is investing $11 billion into improving the customer experience, which is aiming to extend the leadership position for years to come. That was all before the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Home Depot, like many other businesses, has had to make adjustments to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, stores have been able to stay open, but for reduced hours. That means the company is generating revenue and staying connected to its customers, and its more than 400,000 associates continue to have jobs. 

Moreover, changes made to the compensation plan, like raising employee benefits, offering more paid time off, and extending dependent care benefits, are increasing expenses. Simultaneously, implementing safety procedures at stores such as limiting the number of customers allowed in at one time, closing stores early, and limiting services and installations to essential ones is decreasing revenue. 

Unfortunately for Home Depot, the challenges ahead are not only with the outbreak. The major trend of shopping moving online does not bode well for a brick-and-mortar retailer, and that is something that's not going away. 

What this means for investors 

Both Home Depot and Disney are great businesses facing a challenging marketplace. The difference between them is that Home Depot will continue to have a difficult time growing revenue above low to mid-single digits even after the pandemic has run its course. While Disney faces more challenging circumstances in the near term, the blue-chip stock is a better buy because of the long-term potential of its assets to drive revenue growth.

Parkev Tatevosian owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Home Depot and Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney, long January 2021 $120 calls on Home Depot, short January 2021 $210 calls on Home Depot, and short July 2020 $115 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
$99.50 (-2.60%) $-2.66
The Home Depot, Inc. Stock Quote
The Home Depot, Inc.
$270.94 (0.67%) $1.80

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