Disney's quarterly net income rises

Media networks record biggest jump in revenue

Showing why it is the most valuable media conglomerate, Disney on Thursday did something its competitors weren't able to do: report that its sales actually grew in the recently ended quarter.
Disney posted an 18% jump in net income to $895 million on revenue that climbed 4% to $9.87 billion.

The better-than-expected results had Disney shares climbing to a 52-week high after the closing bell, pushing the company's worth to $54 billion. That's a market cap much higher than Time Warner, Sony, Viacom, CBS or News Corp., all of which reported declining revenue in their most recent quarters.

It wasn't all rosy, of course. The numbers at Disney's film studio were expectedly bad, one reason CEO Robert Iger has initiated a shake-up there that has resulted in several execs being replaced, including former studio topper Dick Cook.

While studio revenue rose 3% to $1.5 billion, operating income went from a positive $98 million last year to a negative $13 million this time.

If "A Christmas Carol" is any indication, Disney also might struggle in the current quarter. The $175 million movie took in just $31 million in its opening weekend ending Sunday. Clearly unhappy with the film's performance, Iger nevertheless praised its artistry and said he was encouraged that it took in $5.3 million just on Veterans Day.

He and CFO Tom Staggs predicted better days for the studio, beginning with the release of "The Princess and the Frog" on Dec. 11, followed by Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" set for March 5, "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" on May 28, "Toy Story 3" on June 18 and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" on July 16.

Iger also confirmed Johnny Depp's participation in the fourth installment of "Pirates of the Caribbean." Disney is close to naming a director, and filming will begin in the spring.

Iger also called on all studios to "galvanize" around the issue of Internet piracy, which is getting worse with the growth of broadband across the globe. "The peril is both real and immediate," he said.

Media networks enjoyed the strongest showing in Disney's fiscal fourth quarter, with revenue climbing 14% to $4.73 billion and operating income leaping 26% to $1.49 billion, courtesy of ESPN, ABC Family and the growing presence of Disney Channel worldwide.

And ABC Studios got good performances out of "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives" and "According to Jim."

Parks and resorts showed a 4% dip in revenue to $2.84 billion and a 17% decline in operating income to $344 million.

Revenue for consumer products fell 12% to $646 million, while operating income was off 28% to $151 million.

Interactive media reported an 8% increase in revenue to $157 million and an operating loss of $114 million, a 5% improvement over the year-ago frame.

For the fiscal year, Disney reported net income that dropped to $3.3 billion from $4.4 billion a year ago on revenue that shrunk 4% to $36.15 billion.