Disney (DIS 0.56%) executives believe they’ve finally put the business back in a strong growth position. The entertainment giant posted a 26% revenue surge for the selling period that ran through early July, and management bragged about Disney’s power to market its intellectual property across digital and physical stages.
Wall Street isn’t convinced, and the stock continues to trail the wider market in 2022 on worries about weakening earnings strength. But is the slump a good opportunity to snap up shares at a discount?
Let’s take a closer look.
Disney’s latest results eased a few big concerns that investors have, while leaving a few questions still hanging over the stock. On the bright side, the parks and resorts segment has been a huge winner as consumers tilt spending toward in-person experiences .
That unit posted a 70% revenue surge thanks to booming attendance levels and increased prices. Disney notched wins in the broadcasting and streaming spaces, too, even though advertising sales fell in some niches. “We had an excellent quarter powered by world-class storytelling,” CEO Bob Chapek said in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.
It wasn’t all good news in this report, though. Disney is preparing an ad-supported tier for the Disney+ service and is planning big price increases in the next year. The direct-to-consumer segment is still a drag on overall earnings, and these moves are aimed at lifting its profitability over time. Investor returns from here might depend on how well these moves are received by consumers who have many choices for streaming entertainment.
While the jury is still out on the streaming business, Disney seems well positioned to expand its entertainment empire over the next few years. The parks and resorts segment is handling fewer visitors than it did in the pre-pandemic days, while earnings are hitting records thanks to higher prices. That posture gives the company flexibility to react to any big shifts in shoppers’ spending habits by offering promotions.
And don’t forget the stuffed pipeline of projects that will capitalize on Disney’s huge intellectual property vault. Its global platform creates dozens of new franchises each year, whether the brand is attached to Marvel, Pixar, Disney, or Lucasfilm.
Should you buy the stock?
Sure, Disney is a consumer discretionary stock, meaning the business is highly sensitive to an economic downturn. And bets like the streaming video service and the acquisition of the Fox studio assets will take time before they really boost earnings, too. But it’s hard to look at the stock, which is down almost 20% so far this year, and not see an attractive deal on offer.
The strength of the business has been clouded in recent months as Disney focused more on investing in its growth initiatives. Free cash flow turned negative in the past three quarters, compared to a $466 million inflow in the previous period.
If management is correct, though, this decline is temporary and reflects targeted spending in areas that will support faster growth in 2023 and beyond. Investors shouldn’t ignore that bullish potential even though Disney’s finances are stressed right now. As a result, the stock might quickly start beating the market again, rewarding long-term shareholders.