February 23, 2024

S&P 500 goes nowhere as Disney soars, small caps rally

Disney (DIS) shares surged on Thursday following the company’s upbeat earnings report.

On Wednesday, the company said it will boost its cash dividend by 50% as earnings came in above estimates while streaming losses narrowed.

Disney reported adjusted earnings of $1.22 a share — a significant beat compared with the $0.99 analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected. The company also guided to full-year fiscal 2024 earnings of $4.60 a share, an increase of at least 20% versus 2023.

Revenue came in at $23.5 billion, a slight miss compared with the $23.8 billion expected.

It announced a cash dividend of $0.45 a share, an increase of 50% versus the last dividend paid in January. The dividend will be payable on July 25 to shareholders of record at the close of business on July 8.

The board also approved a new share repurchase program, targeting $3 billion in purchases in fiscal 2024.

Disney has been grappling with challenges that include a declining linear TV business, slower growth in its parks business, and losses in streaming. Last year, activist investor Nelson Peltz renewed his push to shake up the board as the stock price hit multiyear lows.

CEO Bob Iger has committed to various cost cuts to combat those challenges. The company said Wednesday it’s on track to meet or exceed its $7.5 billion annualized savings target by the end of fiscal 2024, adding it will “continue to look for further efficiency opportunities.”

The company also revealed a slew of new announcements.

Notably, Disney said it plans to invest $1.5 billion in Fortnite maker Epic Games, which Iger called Disney’s “biggest entry ever into the world of video games.”

On the content side, the company said Disney+ will be the exclusive streaming home for “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version).” The concert film will feature five additional acoustic songs, including “Cardigan.”

Meanwhile, an animated “Moana” sequel will hit theaters in November as Disney leans deeper into sequels and franchises amid a struggling box office.

Disney also announced a firmer timeline for the company’s over-the-top (OTT) ESPN streaming service, revealing the platform will launch in fall 2025.

The development comes after news broke that Disney’s ESPN will team up with Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) and Fox (FOXA) to launch a new sports streaming service, which is expected to debut sometime this fall.

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