The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has reached its all-time high after UBS raised the earnings expectations on the company and increased the target price for Disney to $78 per share. Let's take a closer look to see whether or not Disney is still a good buy now that it has reached its all-time high.
ESPN leads Disney's growing performance
Disney has reported a strong growth in both top line and bottom line in fiscal 2013. Revenue increased 7% to a record $45 billion while its EPS jumped 8% to $3.38 per share. Interestingly, its free cash flow experienced significant growth of 59%, from $4.18 billion in 2012 to nearly $6.66 billion in 2013. Media Networks was Disney's biggest segment, accounting for 43.5% of the total revenue and 63.6% of the total operating profit in fiscal 2013.
The flagship cash cow brand of the Media Networks segment is ESPN, one of the most famous sports TV channels in the world. According to Disney, with more than 35 years of history, ESPN had more than 100 million sports fans connecting to this channel every week. On average, fans spend more than 7 hours per week with ESPN. Disney feels confident about ESPN in the long run because most of major long-term sports rights have been locked up for the next decade, and because of its global leading position in sports. ESPN will deliver more growth with most of the world sports events. In the recent fourth quarter, ad revenue at ESPN rose by 9%; this was driven by an increase in both units and rates. Next year's 2014 World Cup will definitely lift ESPN's sales and profitability significantly.
A commitment to return cash to shareholders
What I like about Disney is its commitment to return cash to its shareholders via both dividends and share buybacks. In fiscal 2013, the company has returned $1 billion to shareholders by repurchasing 15.1 million shares. In fiscal 2014, Disney expects to buy back around $6 billion-$8 billion, yielding 4.8%-6.5%. Disney's peers such as Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) and Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) also have the same level of commitment to their shareholders.
Since the beginning of fiscal 2013, Time Warner returned nearly $4 billion to shareholders via $3 billion in buybacks and $811 million in dividends. The amount returned to investors was around 25% higher than last year. Looking forward, Time Warner believes that it can deliver double-digit growth in the full-year adjusted EPS. Among the three, Time Warner offers investors the highest dividend yield at 1.70%, with a conservative payout ratio at 28%. Thus, investors can trust the sustainability of Time Warner's future dividend payments and share repurchases.
Twenty-First Century Fox gives investors the lowest dividend yield at only 0.80%. However, its payout ratio is also the lowest, at 8%. If Twenty-First Century Fox had the same payout ratio as Time Warner, the dividend yield could reach as much as 2.80%. Since Twenty-First Century Fox was separated from News Corp, it has completed around $1.3 billion in share buybacks. The company also announced that it was on track to reach a $4 billion repurchase target until July next year.
My Foolish bottom line
Despite Disney's share price reaching its all-time high, I personally think that it could be still a good opportunity for long-term investors. With a global leading position in the entertainment business, ESPN's dominant position in the world sport industry, and the company's commitment to return cash to investors, Disney can deliver a lot of value to investors in the long run.
Anh HOANG has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.