Walt Disney Co. has been counting on success at its new Disney+ streaming service to offset some of the slowdown seen at its theme park division, but the odds may have suddenly grown longer after rival Netflix Inc. forecast that consumers’ desire for new entertainment subscription plans is cooling off.
Disney is “in a tough situation” with a large chunk of the company’s revenue locked down in hotels, cruises and theme parks due to the worldwide Covid-19 crisis, said Gerber Kawasaki Inc. investment adviser Nick Licouris. Management just has “to weather this one out until it’s safe to get parks back up,” Licouris said in an email. The Santa Monica, California-based wealth management firm has Disney among its top three holdings, with a recent 13F filing listing more than 143,000 shares valued at almost $17 million.
Disney dropped 0.7% on Friday, extending its year-to-date decline to 18% as investors focus on a long lead time for any recovery in its park business.
On Thursday, Cowen Inc. cut its investment rating on Disney to market perform from outperform given the “prolonged impact” of the pandemic on its park and film businesses. The downgrade followed an announcement this week by Disney that was again closing its Hong Kong Disneyland Park due to a local resurgence in coronavirus cases.
Outside of streaming, Licouris notes that Disney “isn’t doing so well in this type of stay-at-home environment,” dominated by social distancing orders and quarantines. One bright spot is Disney’s ESPN offerings, where Licouris sees an eventual opportunity for sports to “slow the hemorrhaging” seen in declining cable subscribers.
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