Disney Posts Higher Profit, Beats Estimates

The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) Monday posted a 7 percent rise in first-quarter profit as improved results at its theme park, television and consumer products units outweighed a weak performance at its movie studio.

The company also said its ABC Radio stations would merge with Citadel Broadcasting Corp. (CDL) in a deal that Disney said was worth $2.7 billion and would give Disney shareholders control of 52 percent of a new company, Citadel Communications.

Disney shares rose just under 2 percent in after-hours trade.

Net income rose to $734 million, or 37 cents per share, in the first quarter, ended Dec. 31, from $686 million, or 33 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose to $8.854 billion from $8.666 billion a year earlier.

Excluding a gain of $70 million, or 2 cents per share, related to sales of cable and magazine businesses, Disney posted earnings per share of 35 cents, ahead of the Wall Street consensus of 30 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue lagged expectations of $8.84 billion for the quarter.

"From the standpoint of earnings, (Disney is) clearly outperforming," Rich Greenfield of Pali Research said. "The main place was in theme parks where clearly the 50th anniversary (of Disneyland), and the revenues and profits coming in from Asia made a difference in the quarter."

He said investors would want more details of the ABC radio deal.

During the quarter, Disney shares traded between $22.96 and $26.06. Disney shares traded on Monday at 17.7 times estimated 2006 earnings, compared with an average of 13.2 times earnings for companies comprising the Dow Jones Industrial Average and 21 times earnings for Time Warner Inc. (TWX), according to Reuters Estimates.

Disney announced earlier this month that it would buy Pixar Animation Studios Inc. for $7.4 billion.

Disney shares rose 46 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $25.42 on Inet.