Did you ever think that you could pick up a master of computer-rendered art for just 11 times trailing earnings?
Pixar certainly wasn't fetching that low a markup in the years leading up to its acquisition by Disney
The company closed out its fourth quarter in great shape. Revenue climbed 42% to $290.2 million. Earnings came in at $0.98 a share, reversing a $0.20-a-share deficit a year earlier. The disparity is important, because it sent the animation studio's P/E ratio plummeting from 24 to 11 overnight.
The DVD release of Shrek the Third was the key driver. It was also the main contributor to a monster 2007, with revenue soaring 94% to $767.2 million, and earnings clocking in at $2.17 a share.
Don't expect the dirt cheap multiple to last, and not necessarily because of a higher share price. The company's results will be lumpy, and analysts expect results to dip in 2008. There may be some favorable buzz over the early June release of Kung Fu Panda, but it's not likely to top the Shrek franchise.
Madagascar's sequel hits the silver screen come November. That one should fare well, but it will come too late to impact the fiscal 2008 results (since early box office gains go to recoup distributor costs).
DreamWorks Animation is committed to putting out a pair of annual theatrical releases -- an original and a sequel -- though 2009 and 2010 will be exceptions to that rule of rendered thumb.
With a crowded slate of competitive product leading into the 2009 holiday season, the company is bumping How to Train Your Dragon until March 2010. That leaves Monsters vs. Aliens as the lone release next year, loading 2010 with three flicks (including the fourth installment in the killer Shrek franchise).
That doesn't mean there may not be any near-term surprises along the way. Kung Fu Panda's release is also getting the IMAX
So expect the future to remain lumpy. However, even if 2008 -- and especially 2009 -- proves challenging on the bottom line, 2010 will likely far exceed even this past year's great showing.
How high will the shares be trading then? How low will the P/E multiple be? Only the future will tell, though investors know that today, they can pick up a proven artisan at 11 times trailing earnings -- and roughly a single-digit multiple, looking two years out.
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