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Why Investors Should Not Buy Disney Stock...Yet

By Will Healy - Jul 9, 2020 at 7:01AM

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A shoe could soon drop regarding the theme parks.

Both Disney (DIS -0.11%) investors and fans anxiously await the reopening of theme parks as the company works to recover from COVID-19.

However, a resurgence in COVID-19 in Florida, California, and other states puts this plan in doubt. Although none of these issues should compromise Disney long term, investors may want to stay away from Disney stock pending further information.

Theme parks and COVID

Until recently, the recovery path for Disney stock looked solid. Reopenings of theme parks in both China and Japan offered some hope. Even now, Walt Disney World in Florida remains committed to opening to the public on July 11. Also, Disneyland District in California is planning to accept customers again on July 9, though it has already delayed a planned July 17 reopening of the entire park.

However, the latest resurgence in coronavirus could not come at a worse time for Disney. Before the scheduled reopening for theme parks, authorities in Florida closed beaches and canceled Fourth of July celebrations. Such moves could make it more difficult for theme parks to reopen as scheduled.

The monorail at Walt Disney World.

Image source: Getty Images

Financials and Disney stock

The company does not break down revenue by theme park. However, in the previous quarter, the company spent $1.549 billion, or 59.9% of all capital expenditures, on the domestic segment of its Parks, Experiences, and Products division. Any delay in reopening to the public will probably delay payoff from this outlay.

Also, the Parks, Experiences, and Products division was its largest revenue source before the pandemic. It made up about 37.7% of Disney's revenue in 2019. However, thanks to COVID-19, it is no longer the largest. Its share of company revenue has fallen to around 30.8% as of the end of the first quarter. Investors should also remember that the theme parks were open for most of that time, so the full effects of the closures may not yet be known.

Worse, this will make forecasting revenue and profits for the company extremely difficult. With such a significant source of revenue off the table, it has become difficult to value Disney stock.

Not surprisingly, the numbers appear bleak. Thanks to coronavirus, net income fell by 84.4% year-over-year in the most recent quarter. Moreover, income had suffered before COVID-19. For fiscal 2019, net income decreased by 11% from the previous year.

Furthermore, Disney stock trades at a current P/E ratio of 49.6. Admittedly, the falling profits have elevated the multiple. Still, investors may not want to pay that valuation in an environment of decreasing earnings.

Disney stock has reflected this pain. It has seen a pullback of approximately 25% from its 2020 high. Disney still trades significantly higher than its lows in March. But with the current level of uncertainty, Disney stock could easily retest that low, which took it briefly below $80 per share in March.

DIS Chart

DIS data by YCharts

Disney's immediate future

Investors also have to remember that Disney stock is more than its theme parks. Within the parks, experiences, and products division alone, investors will probably revisit the reopening issue regarding the cruise lines. So far, the company plans to set sail again on September 15. Still, coronavirus could push that back.

Moreover, the lack of live sporting events has taken a toll on ad revenue for ESPN. The pain could continue for this media stock if the NFL or the NCAA cancels or shortens their football seasons.

But for now, the questions surrounding the theme parks are the immediate worries. Given this precarious situation, uncertain reopening plans should probably mean delayed stock purchase plans for investors.

Will Healy has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short July 2020 $115 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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