Disney parks, cable in focus with gains expected

LOS ANGELES – Walt Disney Co. is expected to show another steady quarter of growth, driven by healthy business at cable networks and theme parks, when the media giant reports results on Tuesday.

The company’s shares have risen 10.2 percent since November, when CEO Bob Iger reported higher income and profits propelled by a rise in cable advertising and theme park growth.

Analysts predict the operator of TV networks ESPN and ABC, a movie studio, cruise line and theme parks will again show it is steadily navigating through an uncertain economy and report a 4.7 percent revenue increase this quarter.

Looking ahead to 2012, investors want to hear executives’ outlook on its resorts like Walt Disney World, expectations for the advertising market and details on negotiations with Univision for a new 24-hour cable news network.

News broke on Monday that Disney’s ABC television unit was talking with the Spanish-language broadcaster about creating an English-language news channel.

Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan said it “makes a lot of sense” for Disney to target the growing Hispanic market in the United States. But Evercore Partners analyst Alan Gould was unsure the company could distinguish itself among the crowded field of cable news outlets. “I’m just not sure if we need another 24-hour news channel,” he said.

With Tuesday’s results, Wall Street likely will focus on the parks and cruise ship business as well as the sprawling landscape of cable networks including ESPN and the Disney Channel.

Reports of strong attendance late last year at the flagship Walt Disney World resort in Florida signal another solid quarter for the theme parks Disney operates on three continents, some analysts said.

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