LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Shares of The Walt Disney Co. rose 4 percent Friday after the company reported stronger performance at its ABC Television network and increased attendance at its theme parks.
Investors shrugged off a 42 percent drop in profits for the company's fiscal first quarter, which was hurt by an $83 million after-tax charge for investments in aircraft Disney leased to bankrupt United Airlines. Also skewing the results, was a one-time gain of $216 million from the sale of shares in Knight Ridder, which had boosted profits in the first quarter a year earlier.
After the markets closed Thursday, Disney reported net income for the quarter of $256 million, or 13 cents per share, compared with net income of $438 million, or 21 cents, in the same quarter the previous year.
Excluding the special items, profits improved to 17 cents per share, compared with 15 cents per share in the same quarter of the previous year, the company said. Analysts at Thomson First Call had been expecting income of 15 cents per share.
In Friday morning trading, shares of Disney rose 67 cents to $17.02 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Revenue in the most recent quarter grew 6 percent to $7.47 billion, compared with $7.02 billion in the same quarter of the previous year.
``Our most recent quarter's results, especially the strength of the Disney parks in the face of continued economic softness, are further evidence of the soundness of our strategic plan,'' Disney chairman and chief executive Michael Eisner said in a statement.
Attendance and per capita spending at Disney's domestic theme parks rose during the past year, contributing to a 20 percent jump in operating income, to $225 million.
Disney said international visits grew 17 percent at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and even higher at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., although it did not provide specific numbers.
The company acknowledged, however, it's already seeing a reluctance to book travel to its domestic parks because of uncertainty over war with Iraq. Disney president Robert Iger said tourists are now booking travel only 14 to 30 days ahead of time.
``People are laying low and waiting to see what happens,'' he said during a conference call with analysts.
Operating income at Disney's media networks division, which includes ABC and its cable networks, dropped 7 percent in the quarter to $225 million, although revenue increased 9 percent.
Disney said it is beginning to see the results of higher ratings at ABC. Advertising revenue climbed during the quarter while costs decreased. ``I believe we have turned the tide at ABC,'' Eisner said.