As Disney posts earnings beat, Iger mum on Fox deal progress

Walt Disney shares rose in after-hours trading Tuesday as strong performances by theme parks and movies such as Marvel’s “Black Panther” fueled the media and entertainment giant to earnings and revenue beats during its second quarter.

Adjusted earnings per share rose 23% to $1.84, topping an expected $1.70. Quarterly revenue rose 9% to $14.55 billion, compared with an expected $14.11 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The company’s media networks, parks and resorts and studio entertainment segments all exceeded revenue projections. Media network revenue rose 3% to $6.14 billion, though operating income fell 6% to $2.1 billion because of weakness at ESPN.

Parks and resorts revenue rose 13% to $4.88 billion, while studio entertainment revenue climbed 21% to $2.45 billion. “Black Panther” has grossed more than $1.3 billion at the box office since its debut in mid-February, making it among the highest-earning films of all time.

“Driven by strong results in our parks and resorts and studio businesses, our Q2 performance reflects our continued ability to drive significant shareholder value,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a press release. “Our ability to create extraordinary content like ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and leverage it across all business units, the unique value proposition we’re creating for consumers with our DTC platforms, and our recent reorganization strengthen our confidence that we are very well positioned for future growth.”

Disney’s latest earnings report came amid the company’s ongoing $52.4 billion effort to acquire 21st Century Fox’s film and television assets. Media rival Comcast is preparing a hostile $60 billion all-cash bid to displace Disney and acquire the assets, according to multiple reports.

Iger said on a conference call that Disney is still “deep in the regulatory process” for the Fox deal and declined to provide further comment on the situation. Disney said it incurred $194 million in costs related to the acquisition bid, as well as increased compensation for some employees.

“We strongly believe in the value of those assets as part of our ongoing strategy,” Iger said.

Last month Disney launched ESPN+, a paid streaming service, and plans to unveil a Disney-branded streaming service featuring Marvel and Star Wars content in 2019.

Iger declined to provide specifics on how many subscribers ESPN+ has obtained since its launch, but said the company is “very encouraged” by the service’s early performance and acknowledged that reviews have been positive.