Pali raises 2008 earnings outlook for Disney on strength in theme parks
Monday, June 23, 2008; Posted: 09:53 AM

NEW YORK, Jun 23, 2008 (Thomson Financial via COMTEX) -- DIS | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating -- Pali Research Monday raised its 2008 earnings outlook on Walt Disney Co. and said its upcoming film release "Wall-E" could prove a boost and that the company's theme parks would continue to top expectations.
Pali lifted its Disney forecast to $2.33 a share from $2.31 a share, matching the mean estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Travel trends in the third quarter were "solid," Pali wrote, adding that while the trends were softer in the fourth quarter, "growth should still occur due to the increase in per capita spending."

While seeing some near-term strength, Pali was cautious on the longer-term travel outlook, and lowered its 2009 growth rate to 8.5%. "Within our $2.52 a share earnings outlook for 2009, we are increasingly concerned that our theme park operating earnings forecast of down 2% is not conservative enough," the firm wrote.

Analysts are looking for $2.48 a share for Disney's 2009 fiscal year.

Pali added that Disney's studio entertainment unit would be "a major swing factor" for 2009. It noted that the release of the film "Prince Caspian" had been disappointing at the box office, while last year saw the release of such popular titles as "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" and "Ratatouille."

The firm does see some possible strength from the release of "Wall-E," which opens June 27. Pali expects the film to receive critical praise and make $550 million to $600 million plus in worldwide box office. The film "should be a solid contributor to Disney's DVD sales in the first quarter of 2009," it added.

Shares of Disney, a Dow component, rose 1.3% to $32.36 on Monday. Ryan Vlastelica rv/pc

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