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DISNEY WOWS WALL STREET EARNINGS EXCEED ANALYSTS' EXPECTATIONS.

Byline: Jesse Hiestand Staff Writer

BURBANK - The Mouse is beginning to roar.

The Walt Disney Co. exceeded Wall Street's expectations for third-quarter earnings Thursday on record operating results in its broadcast division and theme parks.

The worldwide entertainment conglomerate reported diluted earnings per share of 30 cents for the quarter ending June 30, 6 cents a share above the consensus of industry analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Corp.

That represented a 50 percent increase over the 20-cent earnings per share reported in the same quarter last year.

Wall Street welcomed the report, sending Disney's stock up nearly 6 percent - up $2.38 to close in after-hours trading at $42.50.

``I am pleased to see the momentum continue to build at our company,'' said Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chairman and chief executive officer. ``At the beginning of 2000 we indicated it would be a year of transition.''

Eisner predicted last fall that profits wouldn't rebound at all this year.

The third-quarter earnings flow from a 9 percent jump in revenue, to $6 billion, and a 48 percent increase in net income to $633 million, excluding losses at its struggling Internet site GO.com. If the Web operations, since renamed the Walt Disney Internet Group, are included, earnings per share dropped to 21 cents for the quarter.

The turnaround was fueled by strong advertising at its ABC television network and owned stations, coupled with higher overall ratings led by the hit ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.''

Disney's Media Networks posted record operating results for the quarter, with revenue up 20 percent to $2.3 billion and operating income up 36 percent to $662 million.

Its Parks & Resorts division also reported record results for the quarter, with revenue up 13 percent to $1.9 billion and operating income up 14 percent to $565 million.

The parks benefited from increased guest spending and record theme park attendance at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. It also reflected higher attendance at Disneyland driven by the 45th anniversary celebration and the strength of the Annual Pass program. Adding a second cruise ship to the fleet, the Disney Wonder, also improved results in the cruise division.

The company's struggling film studios and consumer products division continued to post losses.

Studio revenue was down for the quarter by 2 percent to $1.2 billion, largely because of decreases in domestic motion picture distribution, which were offset by increases in network television distribution, worldwide home video and stage plays.

Consumer products revenue was down 11 percent to $511 million for the quarter, driven by declines in worldwide merchandise licensing and increased advertising and infrastructure costs.

``We've undertaken in recent months a number of efforts to try to improve the picture,'' said Disney spokesman Ken Green.

Those changes include cutting expenses, cutting back on motion picture production and shifting strategies in home video and consumer products - moves the company hopes will help sustain the rebound.

``We anticipate a continued strong performance in these areas in the future,'' he said.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 4, 2000
Words:502
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