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How Has Disney Stock Done in the New Year?

By Adria Cimino - Apr 30, 2021 at 6:00AM

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The best is yet to come.

Disney (DIS 1.84%) shares climbed 25% last year -- even as the pandemic temporarily shuttered its parks and the media and entertainment giant swung to an annual loss. Why? Because investors believed in the strength of the Disney brand and the loyalty of fans. Growth in the company's streaming services also helped.

This year, however, share performance hasn't been as impressive. The stock is only up about 1%. Let's take a look at why the stock may have lost momentum in the first quarter of the year -- and what may be ahead.

Mickey stands next to his toon car and waves hello.

Image source: Disney.

The most magical day

Disney hasn't announced any particularly bad news this year. In fact, the situation is improving. Last July, Disney reopened its Florida parks, which had been closed for about four months. And today may be one of Disney's most magical days ever: Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Parks will reopen after a shutdown of more than a year.

Of course, Disney's parks aren't operating at full capacity, considering the ongoing pandemic. The California parks are opening at 25% capacity. The Florida parks operate at a slightly higher capacity these days -- 35%. But here's the good news: For all the parks that have reopened, Disney says revenue has surpassed the costs of opening.

As the pandemic eases and capacity limits rise, it's likely that revenue will make its way back to higher levels. The parks should benefit from pent-up demand and the general popularity of Disney vacations. Earlier this month, a Disneyland spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter that demand to purchase tickets online was high -- so high, that many fans couldn't immediately access the ticketing system.

Disney's parks, experiences, and products segment contributed the most to revenue before the pandemic. In 2019, that unit made up 38% of annual revenue. So opening parks and getting fans through the gates is essential.

Things are looking brighter internationally, too. Disney's Hong Kong park recently reopened. Disney expects its Paris park to remain closed throughout the second quarter. But France aims to start reopening some cultural and entertainment venues later this spring. So we might imagine a possible Disneyland Paris reopening for Europe's busy summer travel month of August.

Counting on Disney+

Meanwhile, Disney also can count on eventual revenue growth from streaming-service Disney+. The service launched in late 2019 and quickly beat Disney's expectations for subscriber growth. The company originally expected as many as 90 million subscribers by fiscal 2024 -- but they've already surpassed that level. Subscriptions totaled 94.9 million as of Dec. 31.

Disney isn't making a profit from Disney+ yet. Right now, the company is focusing on investing to ramp up the service. But profit won't be too far down the road. Disney expects Disney+ peak losses during the current fiscal year but forecasts profitability in the 2024 fiscal year.

Investors may have been expecting all of this news as they scooped up Disney shares last year. It was clear the parks would eventually open. And Disney+ subscriber numbers have gained quickly from the start. After declines during the early days of the pandemic, earnings have shown improvement from quarter to quarter, too.

DIS Revenue (Quarterly) Chart

DIS Revenue (Quarterly) data by YCharts.

Investors also may have seen Disney shares as a safe bet during times of trouble. Annual net income and revenue have generally risen over time -- until the pandemic.

DIS Net Income (Annual) Chart

DIS Net Income (Annual) data by YCharts.

Disney stock may have lost some steam this year, but gains are far from over --- especially since Disney is on the road to recovery. Today, the magic is back in California as the parks reopen. And over the long term, the magic will be back when it comes to share performance.

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