Thanks to Miramax Sale, Walt Disney Co. Q1 Profits Up 54%

Profits soar to $1.3 billion, overall revenues rise 10 percent to $10.7 billion

Last Updated: February 8, 2011 @ 2:38 PM

The Walt Disney Company seems to have shaken off any lingering aftershocks felt by the recession, as profits soared 54 percent to $1.3 billion during the first quarter ending this January. 

That is up from $844 million in the same period a year ago.

The staggering jump in profitability was aided not just by strong home entertainment sales for "Toy Story 3" and rising ad rates for its cable and television networks,  but also by the $660 million sale of Miramax. A deal to sell the independent label to a group of investors led by Ron Tutor closed in December, giving the Mouse House a multi-million dollar New Year's gift. 

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"We had an excellent first quarter, driven by strong creative content and our unique ability to leverage great entertainment across the many platforms, businesses and markets in which we operate," Disney President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said in a statement.

Shares in Disney jumped 3.2 percent to $42.50 on the news, up from a close of $41.18 on Monday.

Revenues climbed 10 percent to $10.7 billion from $9.7 billion, roundly beating Wall Street's expectations. Analysts had predicted that Disney would see revenues improve 8 percent to $10.49 billion. 

An industry-wide resurgence in ad sales helped revenues at Disney's cable and television unit rise  11 percent to $4.6 billion from $4.2 billion. Earnings for the television operations surged 47 percent to $1.07 billion.

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Also bolstering the entertainment monolith's fiscal picture is the launch of the Disney Dream cruise ship. That event helped improve revenues for Disney's parks and recreation division — recently a sick man of the company — by 25 percent to $468 million. Moreover, profits climbed 25 percent to $468 million from $375 million in the same period last year. 

Disney's new cost-conciousness helped its studio division enjoy a double digit rise in profitability, though revenues remained more or less stagnant.

Despite relatively robust ticket sales for "Tangled" and "Tron: Legacy," the film unit brought in $1.9 billion during the first quarter, slightly less than it banked in the same period last year. But a tighter eye on the bottom line helped strengthen profitability, with net income jumping a whooping 54 percent to $375 million from $243 million in the same period last year.