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Disney Rises to Record High as Profit Tops Estimates

Disney Rises to Record High After Profit
Toys are displayed at Hong Kong Disneyland during the resort's 5th anniversary celebrations in Hong Kongon Jan. 21, 2011 Photographer: Dale de la Rey/Bloomberg

Walt Disney Co., the world’s biggest theme-park company, rose to a record high in New York after first-quarter sales and profit topped analysts’ estimates.

Disney, based in Burbank, California, advanced $2.18, or 5.3 percent, to $43.36 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The old closing high of $43.05 was set in April 2000.

The recovering economy drove attendance gains at Disney theme parks and advertising growth at cable networks led by ESPN. Anthony DiClemente, an analyst at Barclays Capital in New York, predicted 3 percent higher attendance at parks in Orlando, Florida. Analysts on average projected sales of $10.5 billion. Income from Disney’s studio and consumer products also rose.

“The earnings beat was broad-based and resolute as operating income surpassed estimates in all segments, most notably at the cable networks,” Michael Nathanson, an analyst at Nomura Securities International Inc., said today in a note to investors. He recommends investors buy the stock

First-quarter net income rose to $1.3 billion, or 68 cents a share, from $844 million, or 44 cents, a year earlier, Disney said yesterday in a statement. Profit beat the 56-cent average of 23 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales rose 10 percent to $10.7 billion, also topping estimates.

Theme-park income increased 25 percent to $468 million as revenue expanded 8 percent to $2.87 billion. Attendance at domestic parks rose 2 percent from a year earlier, while per-capita guest spending increased 8 percent, Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said yesterday on a call.

Park Bookings

Bookings for this quarter are running 3 percent ahead of a year earlier, Rasulo said.

Earnings at Disney’s TV operations gained 47 percent to $1.07 billion, boosted by gains at ESPN, which aired two newly acquired college bowl games in the quarter.

Disney’s cable revenue gained 16 percent to $3.07 billion, led by higher fees and advertising sales at ESPN and the Disney Channel. Profit increased 42 percent to $771 million.

The company’s ABC broadcast unit boosted revenue 4 percent to $1.58 billion as Disney’s local TV stations increased advertising sales. Profit increased 64 percent to $295 million after ESPN took over the Rose Bowl telecast and ABC reduced its news and daytime production cost.

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