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ABC Advertising Sales Help Drive Disney Income Up 48%

August 04, 2000|From Reuters

Walt Disney Co. on Thursday reported a 48% rise in its fiscal third-quarter net income, excluding Internet portal Go.com, and cited strong advertising sales at its ABC Television network.

The strong advertising market, buoyed by the hit show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," kept the Burbank-based owner of theme parks, broadcast and cable TV networks and a movie studio well ahead of Wall Street's expectations.

Disney said its net income excluding Go.com was $633 million, up from $427 million, and earnings per share rose 50% to 30 cents from 20 cents. Revenue rose to $5.96 billion from $5.45 billion.

Wall Street analysts on average had expected the company to report earnings of 24 cents a share excluding Go.com and 14 cents a share including the Internet results, according to investment research firm First Call/Thomson Financial.

The company's shares rose $1.88 to close at $42 on the New York Stock Exchange, not far off its year-high of $43.88.

Including Go.com, which is being renamed Walt Disney Internet Group, Disney's net income rose 79% to $440 million from $246 million, and diluted earnings per share rose 75% to 21 cents from 12 cents.

Separately, Walt Disney Internet Group said Thursday it plans to buy the remaining 40% stake in Soccernet it does not already own from Daily Mail and General Trust as part of its strategy to expand ESPN.com. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Disney said revenue at its Media Networks division rose 20% to $2.3 billion, and operating income rose 36% to $662 million. Disney cited a strong performance at its ABC Television network and the company-owned television stations due to a strong advertising market and the continued success of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

At the end of the 1999/2000 season, ABC was the No. 1-rated network in total households and in the key 18- to 49-year-old age group, Disney said.

At Disney's Studio Entertainment division, revenue fell 2% to $1.2 billion, and operating losses rose to $3 million from $1 million. Disney said the successful domestic releases of the movies "Dinosaur," "Gone in 60 Seconds" and "Shanghai Noon" were partially offset by "Keeping the Faith."

Disney said its Parks & Resorts division posted record operating results for the quarter, with revenue up 13% to $1.9 billion, and operating income up 14% to $565 million.

Consumer Products revenue fell 11% to $511 million, and operating income fell 48% to $59 million. Disney cited declines in worldwide merchandise licensing and increased advertising and international infrastructure costs.

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