The coronavirus pandemic is causing significant disruptions for Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS). The company had to completely shut down some of its most lucrative cash-generating operations to help slow the spread of the virus. Still, the company bounced back in July, opening theme parks in Asia, France, and Florida. And it inked a deal with the NBA to help the latter resume its season while hosting all players and coaches at Disney facilities in Orlando.
The House of Mouse is not out of the woods yet. Several of its theme parks -- and the cruise lines -- are still closed. Meanwhile, it has indefinitely delayed major theatrical releases. The company is expecting to report its fiscal third-quarter results after the market closes on Tuesday, Aug. 4. Here are a few vital things to watch in Disney's earnings report.
Is the worst of the pandemic behind it?
First and foremost, investors should look for the impact the pandemic had at its parks, experiences, and products segment. In its previous report for the fiscal 2020 second quarter, the company mentioned that coronavirus-related headwinds negatively impacted its operating income by $1.4 billion.
But that reporting period ended March 28, which only included a few weeks of business closures and stay-at-home mandates in the U.S. The brunt of the challenges stemming from those shutdowns will be revealed in the report coming out this week. In California, a surge in new cases has already forced the company to delay initial plans to reopen its Disneyland park indefinitely.
Investors should also track the extent to which these headwinds have affected cash flow. There are expenses on the income statement that are not as paralyzing to the business, because they do not drain cash. For instance, depreciation, a non-cash expense, was 21% of revenue for the parks, experiences, and products segment in the second quarter. If the company was able to reduce cash outflows, that would make the current operating conditions far more manageable.
The market will also be watching results in the media networks segment. Though parks, experiences, and products generated the most revenue for the company in fiscal 2019, it was the media segment that drove over 50% of operating income. Unfortunately for Disney, the months-long suspension of major sports leagues will take its toll on the business.
Then, there's the studio entertainment division, which has grappled with its own issue: closed movie theaters. Potential blockbusters like Mulan have no set release date. This latest live-action remake was expected to do especially well in China, but with Disney+ still unavailable in that market -- the company cannot hope to recoup the $200 million it poured into the film's production by releasing it directly to its streaming service.
On the bright side, Disney+ reached 54.5 million subscribers as of the latest update. What's more, the streaming service launched in Japan in June, and the release of Hamilton on Disney+ in July is said to have added a significant number of subscribers. A substantial increase in new sign-ups could be one of the few sources of good news to offset the declines in Disney's other segments.
What this means for investors
Many of Disney's operations require bringing people together in large groups. The company won't get back to running on all cylinders until there is a vaccine or treatment breakthrough for the coronavirus.
Given the multitude of challenges in its fiscal third quarter, management is likely to focus on looking forward during the next earnings call, providing a much-needed update to the company's outlook for the remainder of fiscal 2020 and beyond.