Lucy Nieves
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The Disney Story Just Became All About 2018

Shares of Walt Disney Co  gained more than 3 percent as investors showed faith in the company’s vision of earnings growth acceleration in 2018. The upbeat comments on the call helped shares regain from initial losses after lower-than-expected fourth quarter results.

Disney’s quarterly earnings of $1.10 per share on revenue of $13.14 billion missed consensus view of $1.16 per share and $13.52 billion. The company has several levers of growth -- Shanghai Disney Resort, Parks, solid film slate, positive fundamentals at Media Networks and Interactive.

“With the industry continuing to change at a rapid pace and with the stock trading on a significant P/E premium to peers, most investors may consider it too early to focus beyond next year – but we think the comments remove some of the downside risk to earnings forecasts near term,” Credit Suisse analyst Omar Sheikh wrote in a note.

The most bullish comment on the call was its statement that the causes of domestic ESPN subscriber losses "have abated."

Disney also highlighted that digital MVPDs (Sling, DirecTV NOW, Hulu) would tap incremental demand from cord-cutters and cord-nevers and these new entrants “will offer ESPN opportunities they haven't had before to reach people."

The company's guided for "modest" EPS growth in 2017, but "more robust" in 2018. Management also affirmed that growth would accelerate in 2018 (consensus expects 11 percent), particularly driven by the film slate.

“We think the guidance makes it hard to assume any of Disney's segments will decline in 2018 vs 2017, so this relatively innocuous-sounding comment is likely to be a reason for investors to reduce bearish bets on the stock, in our view,” Sheikh highlighted.

Disney added that the Shanghai Disney Resort had seen four million guests in the first four months of operation. The company also expects share buybacks between $7 billion and $8 billion for the year in 2017, versus the $7.5 billion spent on buybacks in 2016.

Sheikh has an Outperform rating, with a price target of $125 on Disney shares.

Latest Ratings for DIS

DateFirmActionFromTo
Nov 2016Pivotal ResearchDowngradesBuyHold
Nov 2016BarclaysUpgradesUnderweightEqual-Weight
Oct 2016Credit SuisseMaintainsOutperform

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