Disney Tops Earnings Estimates Ahead Of Streaming Launch

 

Walt Disney Co. on Thursday reported better-than-expected quarterly results, fueled by the release of blockbuster films “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” as it prepared for its new streaming television service.

Disney profit in the recently ended quarter was $1.05 billion, down from $2.3 billion a year ago, on revenue that grew 34 percent to $19.1 billion.

The slump in profits came as Disney absorbed key film and television operations of 21st Century Fox and geared up for its launch of the streaming service Disney+ that aims to compete globally against Netflix and others.

“We’ve spent the last few years completely transforming The Walt Disney Company to focus the resources and immense creativity across the entire company on delivering an extraordinary direct-to-consumer experience,” said Disney chief executive Robert Iger.

“We’re excited for the launch of Disney+ on November 12.”

Iger said the company reached a deal for the service to be on Amazon’s Fire TV platform, the latest distribution agreement for Disney+.

Disney shares were up more than five percent in after-market trading following release of the earnings figures.

‘Lion King’ roars

Revenues in the past quarter were boosted by a 52 percent rise in Disney’s studio operations with box office hits “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin” fueling gains.

The entertainment giant expects revenue in the current quarter to be boosted by the forthcoming release of a sequel to “Frozen” and the final installment of the “Star Wars” film saga.

It will thereafter take a “hiatus” from “Star Wars” box office films but has an array of spin-off shows planned exclusively for its streaming service.

Disney has become the biggest Hollywood player with the acquisition of studio and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

However, integrating Fox into Disney has cost more than expected and the newly added studios have brought in less money than hoped.

Disney saw smaller revenue gains in its cable and broadcasting operations as well as its theme park division.

Iger would not disclose details of pre-sales of Disney+ subscriptions, but said the price — $6.99 monthly — has met with “great enthusiasm” by consumers.

The Disney+ online streaming service will debut in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands before gradually expanding internationally in Europe then rolling out worldwide.

Its films and TV shows will be available, along with the library it acquired from 21st Century Fox. That includes the “Star Wars” and Marvel superhero franchises and ABC television content.

Disney+ will also combine offerings from powerhouse brands including Pixar, with content from Hulu and sports network ESPN.

Apple rolling

Apple last week launched a streaming television service that features a budding library of original shows starring big-name celebrities, aimed at winning over its gadget lovers at home and on the go.

The Apple TV+ on-demand streaming service launched in more than 100 countries at $4.99 per month.

Original Apple TV+ shows have so far been met with lukewarm early reviews, but the low subscription price and an offer of year-long memberships free with purchase of the company’s devices was expected to encourage viewers to tune in.

Netflix, meanwhile, has budgeted $15 billion this year for original shows, on top of the billions it has devoted to exclusive productions in recent years.

Amazon, which has deep pockets thanks to its e-commerce and cloud services, has also poured cash into original shows for its Prime Video service.

This sets up a potential spending war among the major streaming players, according to analysts.

Even more competition looms on the horizon, with AT&T’s Warner Media to launch its “HBO Max” in early 2020 after reclaiming the rights from Netflix to stream its popular television comedy “Friends.”

NBCUniversal’s Peacock service is also launching next year.

Nissan Quarterly Net Profit Plunges, 12,500 Job Cuts Planned

Nissan Motors president and CEO Hiroto Saikawa speaks during a press conference to announce the company’s first quarter financial results at its headquarters in Yokohama on July 25, 2019. TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA / AFP

 

Crisis-hit Japanese automaker Nissan said Thursday it would cut 12,500 jobs and announced a plunge in quarterly net profit as it struggles with weak sales and the arrest of its former chief.

The embattled firm has been buffeted by poor performance in the United States and Europe as well as the scandal of financial misconduct charges against former boss Carlos Ghosn.

“We acknowledge the first-quarter results were very tough,” chief executive Hiroto Saikawa said.

“We knew the pace of sales would be tough, but I think we have to admit that it was slightly below our expectations,” he added.

“But I believe we can fully recover to our expectation levels in the second and third quarter.”

Nissan said net profit slumped nearly 95 percent in the April-June quarter due to falling sales and growing costs.

The automaker’s bottom line profit dropped to 6.4 billion yen ($59 million) for the three months to June, from 115.8 billion yen last year, on sales down 12.7 percent at 2.37 trillion yen.

“Profitability was negatively impacted by the decrease in revenues and external factors such as raw material costs, exchange rate fluctuations and investments to meet regulatory standards,” Nissan said.

Operating profit fell 98.5 percent, to just 1.6 billion yen, but the firm left its full-year earnings forecast in place, predicting the net profit of 170 billion yen on sales of 11.3 trillion yen for the fiscal year to March 2020.

‘No magic formula’

The automaker said it was laying off thousands of employees as it works to cut costs and streamline production.

“Nissan will reduce its global production capacity by 10 percent by the end of fiscal year 2022. In line with production optimisations, the company will reduce headcount by roughly 12,500,” it said in a statement.

Saikawa said 6,400 job cuts had already been carried out in the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years at eight locations.

He declined to identify the six locations at which the firm plans to make another 6,100 cuts between fiscal 2020-2022, saying some factories would close while others would operate with fewer production lines.

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“Broadly speaking, unprofitable lines, and relatively speaking, more overseas-based lines will be affected,” he told reporters at the firm’s headquarters in Yokohama outside Tokyo.

Analysts say the cuts are necessary as Nissan tackles excess capacity.

“Nissan decided not to pursue the volume for volume’s sake,” said Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst at Sawakami Asset Management.

“The company has no other choice than reducing capacity or trimming the number of people employed in order to survive the difficult period,” he told AFP.

But he warned there was “no magic formula to revive Nissan immediately”.

‘Tough for Nissan’

On top of stagnant sales, the company has also faced tensions with its French partner Renault, which owns 43 percent of the Japanese manufacturer.

The two companies, which with Mitsubishi Motors form a top-selling auto alliance, have seen relations falter in the wake of the Ghosn scandal and over persistent differences in how closely integrated they should be.

“Business circumstances remain quite tough for Nissan,” Satoru Takada, an auto analyst at Tokyo-based research and consulting firm TIW, told AFP before the widely expected figures were announced.

“The outlook for Nissan is still unclear, as the company is facing a number of obstacles, including ties with Renault,” Takata said.

Nissan is currently undergoing an overhaul intended to strengthen governance after the Ghosn scandal.

Last month, Nissan shareholders voted in favour of various measures including the establishment of three new oversight committees responsible for the appointment of senior officials, pay issues and auditing.

They also approved the election of 11 directors as the firm restructures, among them two Renault executives as well as Saikawa.

The reforms are designed to put Nissan on a more stable footing after the shock caused by the arrest of Ghosn, considered one of the auto industry’s most powerful executives.

Ghosn, who has been sacked from auto industry leadership roles, is awaiting trial in Japan on charges of under-reporting millions of dollars in salary and of using company funds for personal expenses.

AFP

Google ‘X Phone’ A Wireless Charging Phone?

Google will be unveiling a new smartphone as early as spring of 2013, in conjunction with the Motorola, the mobile phone manufacturer Google acquired in May 2012.

Though its executives didn’t mention it in today’s earnings call, but the device called Google “X Phone,” may come as early as spring 2013.

At this point its existence and capabilities are pure speculation—rumoured features range from a bendable screen and a ceramic case to advanced gesture recognition technology—but whatever it is, it will be the first true “Google phone,” where everything from its hardware to its software will be under Google’s complete control. (Past efforts at creating Google-branded devices, as in Google’s Nexus line of phones and tablets, have always been partnerships with a variety of manufacturers outside Google.)

Twice during today’s earnings call, Google executives emphasized that when the company bought Motorola, Motorola already had a 12 to 18 month “product pipeline” in the works, which Google is still “working through.” Google could have shut down Motorola’s work on existing handsets, but that would have involved bigger short- and long-term losses than the company was apparently willing to take. It also means that all of the devices that Motorola has released since it was acquired were already in the works, and the same is likely to be true until at least spring of this year. (A good example is the Motorola Motogo! phone, which looks like a dated BlackBerry and doesn’t even run Android.)

Rumours have already circulated that Google will reveal a Motorola-built “X Phone” and “X Tablet” at its next developer’s conference, which is scheduled for May 15-17, 2013.

In today’s call, Google CEO Larry Page said that “In today’s multi-screen world, the opportunities are endless… battery life is a huge issue… when you drop your phone it shouldn’t go splat. There’s a real potential to invent new and better experiences.” Page also mentioned phone recharging as a pain point for people. This is speculation, but the obvious interpretation of these comments is that Google is working on—or at least thinking about—phones with extra-long battery life, some kind of novel (perhaps wireless) recharging capability, and a case that won’t break when the phone is dropped. (Which is possibly a reference to earlier rumours about Google’s X Phone using an extra-hard case that incorporates ceramics.)