Disney Shares Plunge After Analyst Downgrade Warning of Slower Theme Park Recovery

Disney Shares Plunge After Analyst Downgrade Warning of Slower Theme Park Recovery

The Walt Disney Co. saw its shares plunge nearly 4 percent in morning trading Friday after an analyst downgraded the stock, citing slower-than-expected recovery at the company’s theme parks and higher-than-expected spending on streaming and traditional TV content.

Guggenheim Partners analyst Michael Morris downgraded Disney to “neutral” from “buy” and cut his target price to $165 from $205, according to multiple reports. He warned about the “pace of profit growth at the company’s direct-to-consumer and parks businesses, which is now below consensus through fiscal 2024.”

Disney’s theme parks will likely see a slower recovery due to continued effects of the coronavirus pandemic, he said, as the parks division will be “impacted by heightened attendance restrictions and consumer caution.”

(Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Disney plans to spend as much as $33 billion on content over the next year, according to the company’s annual report. That represents an $8 billion increase from the previous fiscal year when Disney said it spent about $25 billion on content.

The company said its expansion of streaming entertainment is driving the surge in spending.

Like other Hollywood studios, Disney is betting the farm on streaming entertainment, with high-profile blockbusters flopping at the box office. Recent disappointments include Pixar’s Encanto, Marvel’s Eternals, and 20th Century’s West Side Story.

20th Century Films/LAURENT EMMANUEL/AFP via Getty Images

Disney recently decided to premiere Pixar’s Turning Red exclusively on Disney+ on March 11, making it the latest Disney title to skip cinemas altogether as company executives seek to boost streaming subscriptions.

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David Ng