Walt Disney Co. wrapped up its fiscal year with record sales and its best revenue growth in more than 25 years, but executives predicted much slower sales increases in the year ahead while missing expectations for fourth-quarter earnings and sales, sending shares down more than 10% Tuesday afternoon.
Disney DIS, -0.53% reported fiscal fourth-quarter net income of $162 million, or 9 cents a share, on sales of $20.15 billion, up from $18.53 billion a year ago but more than $1 billion short of expectations. After adjusting for amortization and certain investment changes, Disney reported earnings of 30 cents a share, down from 37 cents a share a year ago.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet had on average expected adjusted earnings of 56 cents a share on revenue of $21.27 billion.
Disney executives blamed a number of factors for the revenue miss, including lower content sales because they had fewer theatrical films on the calendar; underperformance of the parks and media divisions; and seasonality of its fourth quarter, which tends to be the lowest for margins.
For the full fiscal year, Disney reported record sales of $82.72 billion, more than 22% higher than the previous year, the strongest annual sales growth for Disney since the 1996 fiscal year, according to FactSet records. Profit grew to $3.19 billion from $2.02 billion the year before, but is nowhere close to prepandemic Disney earnings, which hit eight figures in both 2019 and 2018.
In a conference call Tuesday afternoon, though, Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy suggested that revenue and profit growth will slow to single digits on a percentage basis in the current fiscal year, missing Wall Street’s expectations. Analysts’ average revenue projection for Disney in the new fiscal year suggested revenue growth of about 13.9% and operating-income growth of roughly 17.4%, according to FactSet.
“Putting this all together, assuming we do not see a meaningful shift in the macroeconomic climate, we currently expect total company fiscal 2023 revenue and segment operating income to both grow at a high-single-digit percentage rate versus fiscal 2022,” McCarthy said.
Disney shares initially fell more than 6% in after-hours trading following the release of the results, but plunged anew to a decline of more than 10% after closing with a 0.5% decline at $99.94.
Disney has been helped by the return of visitors to its theme parks in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a recovering movie business. The main attraction for investors, though, has been growing Disney’s streaming efforts — total streaming subscribers topped Netflix Inc.’s NFLX, +1.88% subscriber total last quarter, and grew its lead in Tuesday’s report, with Disney adding 12.1 million net new subscribers, while analysts on average expected 10.4 million.
Disney’s streaming growth has hampered its profitability, however, as the company spends to add content to its streaming services in order to compete with Netflix. Those days appear to be coming to an end as Disney struggles with profit.
“The rapid growth of Disney+ in just three years since launch is a direct result of our strategic decision to invest heavily in creating incredible content and rolling out the service internationally, and we expect our DTC operating losses to narrow going forward and that Disney+ will still achieve profitability in fiscal 2024, assuming we do not see a meaningful shift in the economic climate,” Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek said in a statement announcing the results. “By realigning our costs and realizing the benefits of price increases and our Disney+ ad-supported tier coming December 8, we believe we will be on the path to achieve a profitable streaming business that will drive continued growth and generate shareholder value long into the future.”
Disney’s largest business segment, media and entertainment distribution, reported sales of $12.73 billion in the quarter, down from $13.08 billion a year ago; analysts on average predicted $13.86 billion. Direct-to-consumer sales, which includes streaming services as well as some international products, hauled in $4.9 billion, compared with analysts’ forecast of $5.4 billion on average.
The trajectory of Disney’ meteoric rise as video-streaming market leader is likely to continue once its advertising-supported service debuts in the U.S. next month, according to Wall Street analysts, after Netflix launched its rival offering on Nov. 3. Disney has leaned heavily on its stable of mega-franchises such as “Star Wars” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe to outpace Netflix Inc. NFLX, +1.88%, Apple Inc. AAPL, +0.42%, Comcast Corp. CMCSA, +0.95%, Warner Bros. Discover Inc. WBD, -2.04%, Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, -0.61%, Paramount Global PARA, +1.28% and others.
Disney’s television networks generated sales of $6.34 billion, while analysts’ average estimates called for $6.64 billion. Content sales and licensing, a category that includes Disney’s film business, registered revenue of $1.74 billion vs. analysts’ expectations of $2.08 billion.
The company’s signature theme parks and product sales business increased to $7.43 billion in revenue from $5.45 billion a year ago. The average analyst estimate was $7.46 billion.
Shares of Disney are down 35.5% this year, while the broader S&P 500 index SPX, +0.56% has dropped 20%.