Hit movies expected to boost Disney quarterly results

Tue Feb 4, 2014 5:59pm EST
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Wall Street expects two new princesses and a muscular Marvel superhero to help lift Walt Disney Co's quarterly results, as the company reaps the benefits of strong performances from film sequel "Thor: The Dark World" and animated musical mega-hit "Frozen."

On Wednesday, the media and theme park operator is forecast to report $1.6 billion in net income for the December quarter, a 14 percent gain from a year earlier, according to the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. They expect earnings of 91 cents a share.

Disney's movie studio helped boost the results, analysts said, with big box office grosses for "Frozen" and "Thor."

The story of royal sisters in an icy kingdom, "Frozen" is the fourth-highest grossing animated film released by Disney, so far collecting $868 million worldwide.

"It is just blowing everyone away with how successful it is, how popular it is and how profitable we think it will be," said FBR Capital Markets & Co analyst Barton Crockett, who rates Disney "outperform."

Crockett on January 29 increased his Disney earnings estimate for the December quarter by 6 cents to 91 cents per share, partly due to the unexpected strength of "Frozen." Before it opened in November, he expected the film would gross about $200 million. He now expects it will approach $1 billion.

Cowen & Co analyst Doug Creutz raised his quarterly revenue estimates for Disney last week by $180 million to $12.54 billion, primarily on higher estimates for the movie division. He forecasts the studio will generate $362 million in operating income this quarter, up 55 percent from $234 million a year ago.

"Thor: The Dark World," a Marvel sequel about the god of thunder, has sold $635 million worth of tickets worldwide. With "Frozen," the two have surpassed a combined $1.5 billion.   Continued...

A part of the signage at the main gate of The Walt Disney Co. is pictured in Burbank in this California, May 7, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files