Disney’s Theme Parks Are Also an Investors’ Sore Spot


Bob Chapek came under fire for the losses that Walt Disney Company’s streaming service incurred. When Mr. Chapek was fired from his position as chief executive of Disney’s theme-parks business last week, cracks were also beginning to show at Disney’s crown jewel theme-parks division.

Investors were scared off by the parks division’s narrowing profit margins amid a weakening economy, which raised concerns regarding the parks’ ability to sustainably generate the profits required to help offset streaming losses, which have reached more than $8 billion since the launch of Disney’s flagship Disney+ service in late 2019.

Since Mr. Chapek took over as CEO in February 2020, the theme parks have undergone significant transformations under his direction. These include introducing a brand-new online reservation system and other innovative forms of technology, such as the Genie+ smartphone app, which enables visitors to pay an additional fee and circumvent certain lines. Under his leadership, the firm has increased the prices of various products sold within the park, including entry tickets, annual passes, hotel room rates, and other items.
Because of the adjustments, the division experienced its highest quarterly sales and profit ever. Some clients dislike them as well, claiming that they are being overcharged and that the reservation system is onerous, decreases flexibility, and unnecessarily complicates trips. These clients think that the reservation process is unnecessarily rigid, inhibits flexibility, and makes trips more difficult.
According to Mr. Chapek, the improvements have helped create profit and limited overcrowding, which have contributed to improving the customer experience.

A source quoted in The Wall Street Journal claims that Mr. Chapek’s predecessor, Robert Iger, currently back as CEO, expressed concern regarding the price rises.

Recent events have given the parks greater relevance from a strategic standpoint. During the previous year, the division that contains them was responsible for around two-thirds of Disney’s total operational income, with Disney’s media businesses being the source of the remaining one-third. Before the debut of the Disney+ streaming service, the parks business was responsible for between 38% and 45% of the company’s total revenue. This was the case during the two years preceding the coronavirus outbreak.

This month, Disney presented its earnings report for the fourth quarter, which included rising streaming losses and unexpected warning signs from the parks. Compared to expectations, revenue and profit both decreased.

According to a statement that JPMorgan Chase & Co. sent to its customers, the operating income from the parks division was $1.5 billion, which is approximately 18% lower than the $1.85 billion the investment bank estimated to earn during the quarter. According to analysts’ findings, theme parks had an increase in sales. Still, their profits decreased compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, the last analogous quarter before the pandemic hit.

The company reported that although the amount of money spent by guests per capita increased by 6% from the previous quarter and by 40% from the fourth quarter of 2019, the amount of money spent on marketing and events-related expenses increased as well, which cut into the company’s profit.

Guggenheim Securities LLC analysts told clients that Disney‘s guidance for the next year had “smacked down the bull case on total company revenue and profit growth.” The bank lowered its share price target from $145 to $115, based on the steep losses to streaming and “slower parks profit growth than previously forecast.” Both of these factors resulted from Disney’s guidance for the following year. Shares were last traded at around $99 on Friday.

The profit margins of Disney’s domestic parks and experiences division, which also includes cruise ships, dropped by roughly 16 percentage points from the previous quarter to a total of 14.8%, falling short of the about 20% that was anticipated by industry analysts.

According to a study of Disney’s financial records by the Journal, the domestic parks and experiences division’s margins typically decrease between the third and fourth quarter as the summer vacation season ends. Families return to their everyday work and school schedules. But the drop was even more severe than usual this year.
The profit margins of domestic parks profit margins declined Between the third and fourth quarters, there were 13 points and 9 points, respectively. of 2018 and 2019, the two most recent years for which comparable data is available.

According to David Goodman is a senior analyst at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Ameriprise Financial’s asset management division. key Disney shareholder, “The shortfall on the parks was a big surprise.”

Mr. Goodman stated on Sunday that the most significant problem is that there appears to be a mismatch between revenues and expenses as the company begins to resume normal operations and items begin to open back up. “Considering the parks for the following year, despite demand right now seems good, there are many unknowns, and that only applies to today, given that the market is speculating about a potential recession.” the speaker said. “There are a lot of unknowns because of the market.”

Christine McCarthy, the Chief Financial Officer of Disney, explained to investors and analysts on a conference call held on November 8 that the theme parks had a due in part to Hurricane Ian’s decreased profit hit Florida in late September, shutting down attractions at Walt Disney World, and resulting in charge of $65 million. She said that demand at the parks is as strong as ever and that the corporation anticipates having successful financial results from the Christmas quarter.

Mr. Chapek was more optimistic in his assessment of the outcomes for the fourth quarter. He praised “another good period for parks” and stated that the parks “continue to generate outstanding results.”

The price of a one-day pass to Orlando’s Magic Kingdom park on a high-demand day increased to $189 after Disney announced yet another round of price increases at the parks on November 16, making this the second wave of price increases in the past two months.

On Sunday, November 20, Disney announced that Mr. Iger would succeed Mr. Chapek in his role as CEO. A few days later, the parks division made its first-ever announcement on a discount for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser attraction, which had its grand opening in Florida in March of last year. Many spectators and commentators saw the attraction as a sign of things to come for the sector.

It’s just for the most dedicated ‘Star Wars’ enthusiasts and is quite expensive and exclusive. The package for a party of two adults includes a two-night stay and an immersive role-playing experience in a hotel that looks like a spacecraft from the “Star Wars” movies. The total cost of the package is close to $5,000. Since the beginning of last week, the corporation has been providing members of the Disney Vacation Club with a discount of thirty percent off the attraction for specific dates.

According to The engineers and designers who create Disney’s theme-park attractions are known as Disney Imagineers, and Jim Shull worked for more than 30 years in that capacity. He said, “That indicates that they are unable every two nights, fill those 100 rooms, and may have exhausted the pool of wealthy patrons and fervent Star Wars enthusiasts prepared to pay this high rate.”

Featured Image – Pexels © Craig Adderley

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About the author: Valerie Ablang is a freelance writer with a background in scientific research and an interest in stock market analysis. She previously worked as an article writer for various industrial niches. Aside from being a writer, she is also a professional chemist, wife, and mother to her son. She loves to spend her free time watching movies and learning creative design.