From entertainment to defense contracting, many of the Valley’s largest public companies felt the sting of the economic downturn this past year as revenues slid and earnings shrunk. Many responded by cutting costs, especially employment.

Burbank-based media conglomerate Walt Disney Co., the largest company on the San Fernando Valley Business Journal’s Largest Valley Public Companies list, saw the steepest drop in revenues for the trailing four quarters ended Sept. 30 — down by $10 billion to $29.55 billion this year compared to last year.

The company, which had a market cap of $65.66 billion, kept earnings from dropping as severely by cutting costs and employment, which fell by 1,000 employees to 149,000 this year compared to last year. Net income slid 6 percent to $3.72 billion.

The company’s latest quarter, ended July 2, was more positive, however, with a 7 percent rise in revenue to $10.68 billion, which helped propel earnings up 11 percent to $1.48 billion.

Every division of the house of Disney enjoyed stronger sales, but ESPN stood out. CEO Robert Iger took the opportunity on a conference call on Aug. 9 to laud the cable channel’s recent performance.

“Each week, almost 107 million people watch, listen, read or log on to ESPN Branded Media,” he said. “And the average person now spends 6 hours and 35 minutes with ESPN Branded Media each week.”

Number two on the list, Thousand Oaks-based Amgen, Inc., the world’s largest biotech company with a market cap of $53.45 billion, saw earnings slashed in half to $2.30 billion in the four trailing quarters ended Sept. 30th from $4.63 billion in the corresponding year-ago period.

The company’s second quarter performance, which ended June 30, was improved with product sales up 8 percent to $3.9 billion; earnings however slid 9 percent to $1.17 billion. The company in October announced the layoff of 380 people in research and development.

Third on the list, Glendale-based Public Storage, with a market cap of $19.52 billion, showed a 30 percent drop in earnings for the trailing four quarters on relatively stable revenues of $1.70 billion.

The operator of storage facilities showed a 4 percent gain in revenue for a total of $371.8 million in the latest quarter ending in June. The company’s earnings fluctuate widely sometimes due to changes in foreign currency exchange rates. More important has been same store sales, which increased 3.7 percent in the latest quarter thanks to a 1.7 percent increase in average occupancy and a 1.7 percent increase in realized rent per square foot, according to the company’s last earnings release.

Fourth on the list, Northrop Grumman Corp., with a market cap of $16.58 billion and substantial operations in Palmdale and Woodland Hills, is facing a revenue crunch with declining Pentagon spending.

The company cut its workforce by 3,600 in the past 12 months to 117,100. Revenues fell 10 percent in the second quarter of 2011 to $6.56 billion while earnings dropped 27 percent. Like other defense contractors, Northrop Grumman has had to adjust to a shift toward smaller, nimbler weapons programs.

Even Health Net, Inc., the health insurance giant, took a beating as enrollment in its plans declined. The Woodland Hills-based company was the Valley’s fifth largest with a market cap of $2.3 billion and revenues of $13.07 billion. The company lost $49 million, however, on a trailing four quarter basis, down from net income of $204 million for the year-ago period.

The company has trimmed employment by about 700 people to 8,010 from a year ago. Earnings swung back to positive territory in the latest quarter, but the company still faces challenges. Earlier this year it warned that year-end revenues would miss initial expectations.

“The economy for employers has been tough and with fewer people working, we have seen our groups become smaller as a result,” said Larry Tallman, chief sales officer. “If a group was 100 people and now it’s 80 people, we are affected by that.”

The Valley’s public electronics and semiconductor companies fared better. Both Teledyne Technologies Inc. and Semtech Corp. recorded gains in revenue. Sixth-placed Teledyne’s earnings for the trailing four quarters grew 53 percent to $184.3 million on revenues of $1.87 billion. The company was among the few to increase hiring, up by 700 to 8,800.

Movies and restaurants were another bright spot as consumers sought escape from the grim economic news of the past year.

The masters of animation, Dreamworks Animation SKG Inc., came in 8th on the list this year with a market cap of $1.57 billion and trailing four quarter revenues of $790.8 million, up $60 million from the year-ago period. The company reported a 40 percent increase in revenue, which was $218 million for the quarter ended July 26.

The Cheesecake Factory Inc., 9th on the list with a market cap of $1.57 billion, also gained – perhaps as people sought to bury their sorrow in cake.

The company saw revenues inch up slightly to $1.68 billion for the trailing four quarters ended Sept. 30.

Earnings took a hit, though, dropping 44 percent from the same year ago period to $45.2 million.


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