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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