Walt Disney Company Earnings Call Insights: Growth Outlook and Affiliate Revenues

Walt Disney Company  (NYSE:DIS) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Growth Outlook

Michael Nathanson – Nomura: A quick housekeeping for Jay, then one for Bob. Jay, thanks for giving us the organic (indiscernible) number. You made Lowell’s life more easier tonight. The question I have for you is for the rest of the year what’s the right rates to think about the kind of like-for-like growth on (affiliated users)? Is there anything unusual about this quarter or low teens kind of be consistent for the rest of the – next couple of quarters?

Jay Rasulo – SEVP and CFO: I think in general you can look for high single-digits, low-teens moving forward for the rest of the year; nothing extraordinary about this quarter.

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Michael Nathanson – Nomura: And Bob, for you, Jay just laid out kind of the big picture story on earlier drivers kind of kicking in next couple of years. You spent the past few years investing in franchises, investing in your parks. A lot of competitors have focused on buying back stock. If you look at next couple of years, your drivers are all unknown to you. So, do you consider at this point increasing the capital returns levels, dividends, buybacks, or you’ve been adding some incremental debt to the company? So how do you think about that knowing all you’ve done is kind of now paying dividends?

Robert A. Iger – President and CEO: Well, we feel good about our ability to deliver more free cash flow. And don’t have much to say specifically about how we will allocate it, except that as you look back, we obviously made three pretty important and large acquisitions in Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, which we think delivered great – has already delivered and will continue to deliver great growth and value to our shareholders. But I’m not sure that as we see ahead we see opportunities that are of like-size, not to preclude that from occurring completely, but just not obvious to us. That will then leave us with the opportunity if we continue to grow our cash flow to increase our dividend or buy back more shares, but we’ve not made that decision yet, I think it’ll be a good problem for us to have…

Jay Rasulo – SEVP and CFO: I think, Michael, in terms of the capital allocation, I mean, almost because it’s a given – Bob did mention that first and foremost, we will for internal opportunities to invest our capital in projects like you’ve seen us do over the last five years in addition to acquisitions; the work we’ve done Parks and Resorts, the joint ventures on free-to-air television stations. I mean, we constantly look for ways that we can get superior returns through investment in organic growth and we continue to want to grow the Company organically. What’s left after that, Bob just handle.

Robert A. Iger – President and CEO: We’ve also never really been a hoarder of cash. So I think you can expect that philosophy to continuing and we’ve been pleased with our credit rating. And I doubt you’ll see us going into the market in the way that would necessarily – that would impact our rating for more debt that is

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Affiliate Revenues

Benjamin Swinburne – Morgan Stanley: Just to clarify, Jay, I wanted to ask you, the almost 10% growth in affiliate revs; that was organic ex-currency and ex-deferral. So, is that ESPN or overall cable? I realize we’re kind of splitting here. But…

Jay Rasulo – SEVP and CFO: That was the overall cable number. I can tell you that if you back those two factors out then you are looking at 12.5% growth this year in affiliate revenues if you back out – this quarter, if you back out the deferral and the FX impacts.

Benjamin Swinburne – Morgan Stanley: At cable?

Jay Rasulo – SEVP and CFO: Yes thank you. Is there any particular reason would parks margins be better because of the calendar shift I realized it benefits attendance et cetera, but I would – obviously the incremental expense is from extra. Yeah, but with the flow through you without the flow-through you have on incremental business – in our business when you were taking on that kind of incremental revenue in a single quarter. And if you think about, for instance, around the holiday period, we’re already fully staffed. So we have very strong flow through. So, yes, we think that of the 400 basis points, about 2 percentage points was due to the shift in the front-end and the back-end into that quarter in terms of impact on margins.

Benjamin Swinburne – Morgan Stanley: And then lastly, Bob, could you just talk about your outlook for the Studio segment? I mean, you’ve put a lot of capital to work with Lucas and Marvel, and clearly the titles are clicking on all cylinders. When you look back a few years ago, this is $1 billion plus profit pool and I know the DVD market has changed, but you’ve also made some headcount changes. How do you think about the potential here for that line over the next several years as you roll out all these franchised films?

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Robert A. Iger – President and CEO: Well, I think you’ll see more and more focus on big tentpole films and less on non-franchise, non-branded smaller films. You have to – when you consider that strategy and that investment, you also have to consider the impact that that investment and those films have across the Company. So, obviously, Consumer Products, to some extent Interactive, certainly there are opportunities on the Theme Park forefront. But we feel good about the slate ahead from all sectors of the Company, Disney Animation which has a, we think, an excellent Christmas film in Frozen. Pixar, I mentioned on the call with a blend of sequels like Monsters for instance and Nemo with some real good original shows – original movies rather. I mentioned Marvel which is very, very rich, Star Wars in 2015, and then some Disney live-action films that we feel quite good about in terms of our ability to basically drive decent returns on that. It is definitely a more challenged business in terms of what I’ll call physical sales – or the physical home entertainment side of the business, that is sell-through and rental of physical goods, but it’s been growing nicely on the digital front, and I think that bodes well for the future.

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