Disney Profit May Fall on Film Slump, Shows Need for Pixar Deal
Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Walt Disney Co., the No. 2 U.S. media company, will probably report a drop in first-quarter profit after disappointing sales of ``Herbie: Fully Loaded'' and ``Dark Water'' home videos.
Profit excluding some costs fell to 31 cents a share, from 34 cents last year, according to Merrill Lynch's Jessica Reif Cohen, ranked the top media analyst by Institutional Investor magazine. Burbank, California-based Disney may say sales rose 4 percent to $9.03 billion, she said.
The movie unit's profit probably dropped 78 percent, helping show why Chief Executive Robert Iger decided to buy the Pixar animated film studio last month. Iger agreed to pay $7.4 billion to buy Pixar, gaining control of a company that gave Disney the hits ``The Incredibles'' and ``Finding Nemo.''
``Their film unit has been stale,'' said Elizabeth Miller, a money manager in New York at Trevor, Stewart, Burton & Jacobsen, which holds about 200,000 Disney shares. ``The Pixar purchase is an attempt to improve content in animation. It's a bold move to kick start things.''
Operating income at the film unit probably fell to $70 million from $323 million a year earlier, Reif Cohen wrote in a Jan. 20 note. Merrill Lynch defines operating profit at Disney as earnings before interest and tax.
Home video sales in the quarter fell 25 percent to about 65 million units, Lehman Brothers analyst Vijay Jayant said.
Some fees paid by cable operators for Disney's ESPN cable- sports network were deferred and higher costs to begin the ESPN branded mobile phone hurt results, Jayant said. Higher programming costs at the ABC Family channel also hurt results, causing operating income to drop 11 percent at the unit to $283 million, he said.