Disney profit boosted by theme park visitors, Frozen toys

Disney characters from the animated movie Frozen performing on a float during the new parade Anna And Elsa's Frozen Fantasy at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, suburban Tokyo, on Jan 13, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Disney characters from the animated movie Frozen performing on a float during the new parade Anna And Elsa's Frozen Fantasy at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, suburban Tokyo, on Jan 13, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co's quarterly revenue and profit topped Wall Street estimates as visits to its theme parks rose and last year's animated film hit Frozen drove home video and toy sales.

Disney's shares rose 4.4 per cent to US$98.23 after the bell on Tuesday. The stock reached record highs in recent months as the company reported strong performances across its TV networks, theme parks and movie studio. Each of its five divisions reported higher operating income for the quarter.

Operating income at Disney's parks and resorts rose 20 per cent to US$805 million in the company's fiscal first quarter, ended Dec. 27, when more people visited its parks in the United States. They also spent more on tickets, merchandise, food and drinks.

Chief executive Bob Iger told CNBC that there had been no discernable impact on parks from a measles outbreak that health officials have said began at Disneyland in Anaheim in December.

Disney now plans to open its Shanghai Disneyland theme park in the spring of 2016, Iger told analysts. The company had earlier set a target of a late 2015 opening but decided to add attractions to the park, a US$5.5-billion joint venture with China's state-owned Shanghai Shendi Group.

Frozen toys sold particularly well during the holiday shopping quarter, leading Disney's consumer products division to a profit of US$626 million, a 46 per cent increase from a year earlier.

Disney's movie studio recorded a 33 per cent jump in profit, driven by an increase in DVD sales. Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy, Frozen and Maleficent sold well, the company said.

Disney said the studio also profited from lower home entertainment production and distribution costs in the quarter.

Profit at the company's biggest unit, cable networks, fell 2 per cent, hurt by higher programming and production costs and lower advertising revenue at its sports channel, ESPN.

Net income attributable to Walt Disney rose to US$2.18 billion, or US$1.27 per share, in the first quarter, from US$1.84 billion, or US$1.03 per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned US$1.27 per share.

Revenue rose 8.8 per cent to US$13.39 billion from US$12.31 billion.

Analysts had expected a profit of US$1.07 per share on revenue of US$12.87 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.