LOS ANGELES – Walt Disney Co. (DIS) Wednesday said its movie studio division would post a loss of up to $300 million in the current quarter, hurt by weak box office ticket sales and higher marketing expenses from a larger slate of Miramax releases.
Disney Chief Financial Officer Tom Staggs also told investors at a Merrill Lynch conference in Pasadena, Calif. that the company could have to write off $100 million in Delta Air Lines (search) aircraft leases as the carrier filed for bankruptcy.
Staggs said a charge from the Delta investment "would obviously have a meaningful impact on our results for the quarter and the year."
But he said that Disney was on track to meet its forecast of double-digit overall growth in earnings, excluding the Delta charge, based on the performance of its theme parks and cable networks, including ESPN. Staggs did not specify whether the double-digit forecast, excluding the charge, would apply for the fiscal fourth quarter, the fiscal year or both.
Wall Street analysts on average had expected Disney to post net earnings of 26 cents per share for the current, fiscal fourth quarter and $1.34 per share for the fiscal year, according to Reuters Estimates.
Sanders Morris Harris analyst David Miller said many analysts had expected Disney's studio division to lose money because of the costs associated with releasing a larger slate of films by Miramax (search), the studio acquired from founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein.
Disney reached a deal to sever ties with the Weinstein brothers that saw the studio unit release seven more Miramax films in the fourth quarter than it had a year ago in order to clear an inventory of titles produced during their tenure.
"The loss is going to be higher than what was anticipated by most analysts, but Staggs did reiterate targets of double-digit growth so that probably means the other divisions will be stronger than expected," Miller said.
He added that a write-down on the Delta leases would probably represent a charge equivalent to 6 cents per share.
Staggs said that Disney, which made its investment in the Delta leases in the early 1990s, would face a write-off if the airline "is unable to resolve its financial difficulties."
Delta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Wednesday afternoon, saying the step was needed to cut costs.
Disney shares closed down 2.8 percent, or 70 cents per share, at $24.11 on the New York Stock Exchange.