Walt Disney (DIS 2.23%) has been a tricky company to figure out lately. On one hand, its largest business, theme parks, has been operating on a limited basis during the pandemic, causing revenue and profits to crater. On the other hand, Disney's streaming services are adding subscribers at a brisk pace and could grow to be worth far more to the House of Mouse than the parks and resorts over the long term.
With the stock down 17% year to date, some investors might be wondering if now is a good time to buy Disney stock. Here are three reasons why it's safe to buy Disney.
1. Disney is still producing cash
Despite the complete shutdown of parks, resorts, and cruise lines for the entire fiscal third quarter, Disney still managed to generate $454 million in free cash flow. With some parks operating on a limited basis in fiscal Q4 (which ended in September), Disney's free cash flow may improve from last quarter's total.
Disney held $23.1 billion in cash on the balance sheet at the end of June, which should be enough to fund near-term expenses. During the fiscal third-quarter conference call in early August, CFO Christine McCarthy said that the company is "well-positioned to navigate through this time of uncertainty" and still have enough resources to invest in the future.
2. Disney says theme parks will recover
Theme parks are an Achilles' heel for the company now, but Disney should be able to adjust to keep the parks profitable even during an extended period of lower traffic.
During the conference call in August, McCarthy said, "At Walt Disney World, we are achieving our objective of driving a positive net contribution at current attendance levels, and we expect demand will grow when the COVID situation in Florida improves."
While management believes normal traffic flow won't return until consumer confidence returns, Disney's internal research and bookings suggest that demand is still there for park visitation. All said, when the pandemic has passed, there could be a lot of pent-up demand.
3. Disney is just getting started in streaming
It's remarkable that Disney's streaming services -- Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ -- have already exceeded a combined 100 million paid subscriptions. It's a major accomplishment given that Disney+ is only a year old. The 60.5 million paid subscriptions for Disney+ is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of millions of fans of the company's content around the world that could sign up over time.
Disney+ hit management's fiscal 2024 subscriber target four years ahead of schedule, and there are still more regions for it to enter, including Latin America in November. Next year, the company will launch a new offering under the Star brand for international markets that will feature highly acclaimed content from various Disney studios, including 20th Century Studios, ABC, FX, FOX, Freeform, and Searchlight. Bundling this new service with Disney+ could be an attractive offering for international customers.
It's also a plus that Disney has managed to release new content on Disney+ during the pandemic, including the recent debut of the highly anticipated second season of the The Mandalorian. When production for future content fully recovers, Disney expects to stack its content pipeline in "a meaningful way," in the words of CEO Bob Chapek.
To sum up, the near-term risks from the pandemic are hurting Disney's bottom line, but it's got plenty of cash to get through the disruptions. Most importantly, the company is seeing phenomenal growth with its streaming platform, which may become its most valuable business over the next decade.
Disney's share price will likely continue to move on news related to park closings and reopenings, but those who remain focused on where the entertainment giant will be in 10 years will be in the best position to profit off the market's mistake. Disney is a safe stock for long-term investors.