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3 Reasons Disney Is a Long-Term Growth Story

By Chad Henage – Feb 10, 2014 at 4:10PM

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In today's market, where short-term earnings are often the focus, investors need to look beyond the next three months to the next couple of years.

With the amount of focus placed on short-term performance, it's easy to forget that fortunes are made in the stock market over years and not months or weeks. With this in mind, it makes sense to look for companies that are built to stand the test of time. With Disney (DIS -0.01%), investors have at least three reasons to believe this growth story is far from over.

Sometimes less is more
The first reason to believe in Disney might sound simplistic, but no one ever said making money in the market is like performing brain surgery. One of the key ways Disney can both reward shareholders and improve earnings is by retiring existing shares.

Some of Disney's competition has already shown what massive share repurchases can do. For instance, Time Warner (TWX) repurchased enough shares, over the last year, that the company's diluted share count is down about 3.5%, while Comcast (CMCSA 0.34%) retired 1.7% of its diluted shares.

Disney hasn't kept up with these more aggressive competitors and has only retired less than half a percent of shares in the last year. That said, if Disney executes its strategy for 2014, that will change significantly.

In the company's last conference call, management indicated it would repurchase "between $6 billion and $8 billion" in shares in 2014. At today's prices, this would retire somewhere between 80 million and 110 million shares. This type of repurchase program has the potential to decrease Disney's share count by around 5% to 6%. With around 5% of the company's shares retired, earnings per share would increase even if net income stayed flat.

Pouring money into parks
The second reason to believe in Disney as a long-term growth story has to do with the company's willingness to invest in its Parks & Resorts business. This is a significant difference between Disney and both Time Warner and Comcast's NBCUniversal business.

While Universal Studios is an important revenue driver for Comcast's NBCUniversal, Time Warner decided years ago that theme parks weren't the company's strong suit. If there is any doubt about the strength of its theme park business, you only need to look at Comcast's versus Disney's results.

Both Universal Studios and Disney's Parks & Resorts divisions reported revenue growth of about 8% in their last quarterly results. The difference between the two is that while Disney gets 32% of its revenue from Parks & Resorts, Universal Studios is a relatively small part of the NBCUniversal business for Comcast.

Disney not only plans on constructing an Avatar-themed area in Disney's Animal Kingdom domestically, but Disney Hong Kong will have the "Iron Man Experience" in late 2016. In addition, Disney's Shanghai Resort will open by the end of 2015, according to the company. Given the strength in attendance, increase in spending, and prosperity of Disney's theme park business, investors should be very pleased that Disney is pouring more money into its parks.

Just wait until next year!
While 2014 looks like a good year for Disney on the strength of Frozen, plus upcoming releases like Planes: Fire & Rescue, Muppets: Most Wanted, and more, 2015 looks like a banner year for the company's Studio Entertainment division.

No doubt competitor Time Warner is looking to steal Disney's thunder in 2014 with movies like The Lego Movie, 300: Rise of an Empire, and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. However, 2015 is a fairly bleak-looking year for Warner Bros.

Comcast's NBCUniversal is probably looking ahead to 2015, with Dumb and Dumber To as one of the few recognizable films coming out in 2014. In 2015, Universal Studios should do better with Minions, Pitch Perfect 2, and an untitled Bourne movie on the slate.

However, neither of these competitors can match what Disney has coming in 2015. Not only will the next Star Wars movie be released, but The Avengers: Age of Ultron will test who has the bigger fan base, Star Wars or The Avengers?

On top of these two huge releases, and because of production delays, Pixar is scheduled to release two movies in 2015, Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. To add to the fun, Disney also begins airing multiple live-action series exclusively on Netflix in 2015.

Since Disney's parks and consumer products divisions get such a boost from hit movies, 2015 looks like the year of the Mouse. Long-term investors have the chance to buy today, sit back, and await positive returns.

With the combination of a huge share buyback program, increased investment in parks, and several massive movies to help earnings, Disney is a classic long-term buy.

Chad Henage owns shares of Comcast. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney. 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.

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