Disney shares fell nearly 6% today, to $47.06, as investors responded to the company’s warning that it likely will report uninspiring earnings for the last three months of 2012. CFO Jay Rasulo says the company will be hit by “few timing and comparability issues” in the quarter — although when it comes to the entire year ”overall, we feel great.” Some analysts remain wary. Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible downgraded the company to “neutral” noting that the stock is already expensive — it appreciated 40% over the last 12 months. What’s more, the issues that Rasulo cited coincide with a relatively weak ad market and stock dilution from Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. “We see greater potential for modeling errors over the coming quarters,” Wible says. Barclays Equity Research’s Anthony DiClemente also wonders whether a few of the company’s issues “may be ‘trending’” problems, not just timing ones. But RBC Capital Markets’ David Bank is more optimistic saying that while the next quarter may look dreary “we don’t think the trends will persist much beyond that period.”
Rasulo warned that ESPN’s sports licensing costs in the quarter will rise $170M vs last year because the network will have more NBA games (remember last year’s lockout?), and higher fees for NFL games as well as Pac-12 and Big 12 college football. The studio will see a $150M decline after last year’s strong home video sales for Cars 2 and The Lion King. The theme parks operation could see $30M in operating profits shift to fiscal Q2 because New Year’s Day will fall on a weekday, not a weekend as it did heading into 2012. The company also will be spending on improvements for parks in Orlando and Shanghai.