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Monday, Apr 15, 2024

Analyst Likes Disney Despite Virus

By MARK R. MADLER Staff Reporter Like many public companies during the coronavirus pandemic, Walt Disney Co. has watched its share price go down significantly in the past few weeks. The Burbank entertainment and media giant had been riding high with its shares, starting the year with a high of $148.20 and maintaining it in the $140 range through the middle of February. But then came the downturn in the economy as the coronavirus outbreak worsened. Disney closed its theme parks in China, where the outbreak began, in January and followed that up with its other theme parks, including Disneyland and California Adventure in Anaheim, earlier this month. Disney stock went below $100 for the first time since May 2018. It closed at $100.73 on March 25. Tuna Amobi, a senior equity analyst who covers Disney at CFRA Research in New York, said that the theme park closures represent the biggest hit for the company. “Disney has always had one of the strongest balance sheets in the media industry,” Amobi said. “At the minimum, the closure of the theme parks will have a negative impact of hundreds of millions of dollars in operating income. Obviously, it depends on how long the outbreak lasts, and at this point it is anyone’s guess.” He does not consider Disney to be in trouble, Amobi added, despite a March 19 announcement that it issued $6 billion in debt. He was surprised that the company had to raise the additional debt. As a result of that action, some of the rating agencies have put Disney on a negative outlook, Amobi said, adding that it sounds worse than it is because they are a top investment grade. “A negative outlook means they may be downgraded to the garden variety investment grade. I don’t think anyone is suggesting, including us, at this point in time that the company is in dire straits,” Amobi added. “Even as the park closures continue to raise some concerns, and obviously the longer it goes, on the more precarious it could be.”

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