Disney shares jump as film hit 'Frozen' heats up profit
By Lisa Richwine and Ronald Grover
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Media company Walt Disney Co reported higher profit for the quarter that ended in December, beating Wall Street expectations due to growth at sports network ESPN and the blockbuster performance of its animated hit film "Frozen."
Disney shares jumped 3.9 percent in after-hours trading on Wednesday to $74.52, up from their earlier $71.76 close on the New York Stock Exchange.
The company posted adjusted earnings per share of $1.04, according to a statement it released, exceeding the 92 cents average estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Net income for the quarter rose to $1.8 billion, a 33 percent gain from a year earlier.
The company's five major business units all reported higher profit, with the biggest gain at Disney's movie studio.
The unit reported a 75 percent increase in operating income to $409 million. The studio benefited from big box office grosses for "Frozen," the story of royal sisters in an icy kingdom, and Marvel superhero sequel "Thor: The Dark World." The two films have sold more than $1.5 billion worth of tickets combined worldwide.
Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said "Frozen" sales were growing as the movie just opened in China and will debut in Japan in March. The popularity of "Frozen," produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, also is fueling toy and music sales related to the film, he said.
"This has real franchise potential," Iger told analysts on a conference call. "Expect to see continued interest in this and continued impact on the bottom line for quite a while."
The media networks unit, which includes ESPN and the Disney Channels, reported $1.5 billion in operating income for the quarter, a 20 percent gain from a year earlier. ESPN took in higher affiliate fees and advertising revenue. Continued...