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Disney Trying to Woo Fox

Posted on Thursday, May 24th 2018

According to recent reports, the attendance for the world’s top 10 theme-park operators grew 8.6% last year, almost double the rate of 2016. Visitors to parks run by Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) rose 6.8% to 150 million worldwide, while Merlin Entertainments, the runner-up operator saw attendance to Lego Land climb 7.8% to 66 million. Universal Studios came in a distant third with a 4.4% increase to 49.5 million visitors. With Disney’s parks doing good business, Disney is preparing to up the ante on the streaming market for its digital content.

Disney’s Financials

Walt Disney saw stellar second quarter results driven by the success of its parks and resorts and studio businesses. Revenues for the quarter grew 9% over the year to $14.55 billion, ahead of the Street’s projections of $14.11 billion. EPS grew 23% to $1.84 and was ahead of the market’s projections of $1.70 for the quarter.

By segment, Disney’s media networks which includes ESPN saw revenues grow 3% to $6.14 billion, ahead of the market’s projected $6.09 billion. Its parks and resorts revenues increased 13% to $4.88 billion, ahead of the Street’s forecast of $4.69 billion. Studio entertainment revenues grew 21% over the year to $2.45 billion, significantly ahead of the Street’s forecast of $2.19 billion. Consumer products and revenues grew 2% to $1.08 billion compared with the market’s expectations of $1.14 billion.

Disney’s Streaming Expansion

Disney is gearing up for its streaming service expansion in the coming years. Its tie-up with Netflix expires this year, and next year, Disney will start boosting its own streaming service. To test streaming, it launched streaming-style ESPN, called ESPN+, last year. Its biggest launch, though, is coming next year when it releases Disney-branded streaming service.

While Disney has not released the details of the content of the service, many believe that the service will feature its iconic animated Pixar family movies, thus attracting families with young children. It will also target an older demographic through the streaming of its Marvel collection and the Star Wars franchise that it got through the acquisition of Lucas Arts.

Disney is also looking to acquire entertainment assets from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. The deal is not yet confirmed, but if it were to go through, the $52.4 billion purchase will add to Disney’s library the X-Men and Deadpool franchise. Additionally, it would get Fox’s 39% stake in the London-based pay TV group, Sky.

But the Fox and Sky deals are not easy ones. After Disney’s deal was approved by Fox, rival Comcast reportedly made a $60 billion all-cash offer to acquire Fox. While the Fox’s Board prefers the stock-based Disney deal for tax purposes, it still has to go through the proper due diligence of evaluation of the Comcast deal. Then, there is Fox itself trying to acquire the remaining 61% stake in Sky. And, to make matters even more interesting, Comcast also made an estimated $30 billion offer to acquire Sky’s 61% stake. If the Comcast and Fox deal were to happen, it would end up being a big road block for Disney. The acquisition is clearly turning out to be quite a blockbuster itself.

Meanwhile, Disney’s stock is trading at $104.07 with a market capitalization of $155.2 billion. It touched a high of $113.19 in January this year, and has recovered from the low of $96.20 that it had fallen to in September last year.

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