Disney’s fourth-quarter earnings jump 33 percent

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Fourth-quarter oper­at­ing income at the Walt Dis­ney Com­pany grew 33 per­cent to $421 mil­lion over the same period last year, the enter­tain­ment giant announced Thursday.

Walt Dis­ney Stu­dios recorded a 13 per­cent increase in oper­at­ing profit in the quar­ter to $117 mil­lion due to lower write-downs and strong ticket sales for The Lion King 3-D and The Help. How­ever, the Pixar division’s Cars 2failed to meet expec­ta­tions, so mer­chan­dis­ing sales accounted for most of the studio’s oper­at­ing profit.

Dis­ney CEO Robert Iger said the com­pany plans to “make fewer, more prof­itable movies.” He sin­gled out the live-action The Mup­pets, sched­uled for release on Thanks­giv­ing, as a pos­si­ble blockbuster.

Iger also pointed to Disney’s inter­na­tional busi­ness as expe­ri­enc­ing greater growth. He cited an agree­ment for a Dis­ney Chan­nel in Rus­sia and the begin­ning of build­ing a Dis­ney World-style resort in China.

The best-performing divi­sion at Dis­ney after parks was its TV busi­ness (includ­ing Dis­ney Chan­nel), where oper­at­ing income jumped 20 per­cent to $1.46 bil­lion. Strong inter­na­tional adver­tis­ing growth helped Dis­ney Channel.

Although atten­dance at Disney’s Florida and Cal­i­for­nia parks increased by just 1 per­cent, but per capita spend­ing grew by 9 per­cent, due to greater spend­ing on food and mer­chan­dise — as well as higher ticket prices.

Spend­ing is increas­ing at a pretty heavy level,” Dis­ney chief finan­cial offi­cer Jay Rasulo said dur­ing a con­fer­ence call with ana­lysts. Group book­ings have risen by “leaps and bounds,” he added.

Dis­ney reported a profit of $1.09 bil­lion (58 cents a share) for the quar­ter ended Octo­ber 1, a 30 per­cent increase from $835 mil­lion (43 cents a share) dur­ing the same period last year. Rev­enue grew 7 per­cent to $10.43 bil­lion. Ana­lysts had expect­ing a profit of about 55 cents a share for the most recent quarter.

Net income for the year rose 21 per­cent to $4.8 bil­lion from $3.96 bil­lion. Rev­enue increased slightly to $40.89 billion.

Dis­ney shares grew over 3 per­cent in after-hours trad­ing Thurs­day to $35.78.

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