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Essay: The Walt Disney Company – financial analysis (investment perspective)

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  • Published: 23 September 2015*
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The Walt Disney Company is an entertainment company that operates globally in a multitude of different divisions. The company operates in five major divisions which include Media Networks, Parks and Resorts, The Walt Disney Studios, Disney Consumer Products, and Disney Interactive. ‘The Walt Disney Company, together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a leading diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise with five business segments: media networks, parks and resorts, studio entertainment, consumer products and interactive media’ (Company Overview). The company was all started by one person and has grown into a multi-billion dollar company globally, so can be an excellent investment for prospective investors.

The first division of the company, Disney Media Network, operates a variety of television, radio, and media areas which include the Disney Channel, ABC, and ESPN, to name a few. The Parks and Resorts area operates multiple world-class theme parks around the globe, a cruise line, beach resorts, and Adventures by Disney, which will take you on guided tours throughout the world. The Walt Disney Studios is the core of the business, where it all started, and where movies are brought to life. This includes Disney Films, Lucas Films, Marvel, and Pixar, to name a few. The Disney consumer products line offers a line of Disney Merchandise through licensing and corporate owned Disney stores throughout North America, Europe, and Japan. Finally, Disney Interactive operates websites such as go.com as well as disney.com. Along with their websites, Disney also developed and operates both mobile applications and games as well as console video games to it’s guests.

Imagine, Believe, Invest

After taking a look at Disney’s financial statements it is easier to see their weaknesses and strengths in it’s market. ‘Aggressive accounting practices, earnings restatements, and weak corporate governance have raised questions about the quality of financial reporting. In response, the U.S. Congress enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) to improve the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures and to restore public confidence in the stock markets’ (Entwistle, 2006). With SOX, investors can feel more comfortable by investing in companies like The Walt Disney Company because they know exactly what they are getting. Here is a review of Disney’s financial statements from the past 4 years. Included below are the company’s income statement as well as statement of cash flows, vitally important to review when making an investment decision. Checking the statements year over year (YOY) is also important to take into consideration before handing over cash to a company.

The Walt Disney Company Income Statement

Note: Adapted from Financial Statements for walt disney co/the (DIS). (2014, January 1). Retrieved September 27, 2014.
The Walt Disney Company

Statement of Cash Flows

Note: Adapted from Financial Statements for walt disney co/the (DIS). (2014, January 1). Retrieved September 27, 2014.

Keep Moving Forward

When we look at Pro-Forma financial statements and earnings it is important that investors keep in mind that these are hypothetical analysis ‘pictures’ of the company and the direction that the company is headed in. Great examples of Pro-Forma statements are when two companies are merging because you can take the financial statement from each company to get a general outlook of what is going to happen in the future. In other words for a company not merging, taking historical data is how pro-forma statements are created.

With taking a future look into the growth of The Walt Disney Company, where characters generate revenue, with Star Wars VII and the Avengers II will mean additional profits. These movies expand on the rest of the business including Disney Interactive and growth of the Star Wars attractions at the parks and resorts. With the expansion of the ever popular Frozen into the first quarter of fiscal year 2015 starting October 1, 2014, the company has plenty of opportunity for growth. Frozen was one of the largest grossing animated films of all time, pushing last years quarterly income up from $2.5 billion to $3.4 billion.

Pro Forma Financial Statement (next 2 years)

Hakuna Matata

‘There is much debate over the ability of firms to earn an above-normal return using either rules of investing or ratio analysis. If the capital markets are weak-form efficient then the market will already have reacted to the past information embodied in financial ratios. Theoretically, if the average investor responds irrationally to past information, arbitrageurs would short those stocks that are over-priced and buy those that are undervalued pushing over-priced shares down and under-priced shares up’ (Miller, 2006). Basically, it is difficult to predict changes or return rates if the capital markets are always weak-form efficient.

Liquidity Ratio Analysis

Although the company’s liquidity ratio decreased from 2011 to 2012, the company increased from both 2011 and 2012 in year 2013. ‘Data from internet auctions of unused tickets to Walt Disney World are used to establish the presence and financial impact of liquidity constraints for consumers, even when those consumers are confronted with a very short time horizon and a substantial potential monetary saving. Bidding for tickets is found to be consistent with the microeconomic consumer theory of risk and liquidity. The presence of liquidity premiums and premiums paid for variety in entertainment are separately established’ (Cebula, 2005).

Profitability Ratio Analysis

The above chart shows gross margin for The Walt Disney company for the past 3 fiscal years. As you can see YOY, the company has increased sales margins. These numbers are represented in percentages.

The Happiest Place for Investors

Return on Equity (ROE) runs on a 12 month basis, meaning that fluctuations in the companies earnings can cause this ratio to change drastically. ‘If the joint analysis of ratios is to be useful, there must be some organizing paradigm that provides the necessary structure and linkages. DuPont analysis is one such approach for non financial firms. A virtue of DuPont analysis is its simplicity’ (Eisemann, 1997). Return on Equity = net profit margin x total asset turnover x leverage. Currently, Disney has an average ROE of 12.94% over the past 10 years. At it’s highest the ROE was 17.59% and lowest was at 9.27%.

Return on Equity Analysis

Where Dreams Come True

When it comes to Economic Value Added (EVA) with the Walt Disney company, the company has been under earning its cost of capital. Although it is underperforming, slow growth in sales has caused EVA to look better financially. ‘EVA does not focus directly on market values and, therefore, can be applied both to investor-owned organizations and not-for-profit organizations. The basic formula for EVA is: EVA = operating profit – total capital supplied x cost of capital.’ (Gapenski, 1996).

The Magic of Investing

As far as financial soundness, The Walt Disney Company has ranked number 10 this year on Fortunes list of most admired and financially sound companies. Coming in just under companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and Amazon. Disney also took the number one spot in being the most respected company in the world on the Forbes list.
Since 2005, Disney stock has grown by 25%. ‘Disney has a 5 year dividend growth rate of 19.70% compounded annually. ??The company’s most recent dividend increase was 14.67%. ??The Walt Disney Company has been growing their dividend rate at a pretty solid pace recently. ??Not only have they been growing the dividend rate at a decent clip, but the company only has a 19% payout ratio’ (Mac, 2014). After reviewing the company’s financial statements, Disney can sustain a 15% growth rate of 15% annual dividend per share. As far as leverage ratios in the Walt Disney company, in the past 10 years, the average has been 0.94 while 1.23 has been the high with the low being 0.79. Right now, the company has around a 26.2% of total debt, or around $16.1 billion. Historically, the company has had around a 25% debt ratio so it is slightly higher this year than previous years. This is likely due to major expansions in multiple divisions of the business in the past year.

SWOT Analysis

The best way I believe to look at any company is by using a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This is a very basic, high level overview which allows one to drill in on each section. For The Walt Disney Company, currently it’s strengths are that they have a solid theme park business, really great free cash flow, are are doing well with it’s cable networks. Some weaknesses in the company are that Disney interactive and Disney’s film studio has not had the greatest 2 years with social media gaming and some films which have not grossed out as high as expected. Some areas where the business has some opportunities to grow would be in the new Shanghai Disneyland which is still a few years away from opening, but growing that market could be huge for the company overall. Finally, some threats to the company come in on the cable end of things with Time Warner Cable, which is a huge player in the cable industry.

Why Invest?

The Walt Disney Company will be a great investment in many ways for a number of years to come. The company is still a media giant that has been expanding and has major plans to expand over the next few years. What started as just a movie studio has grown into a giant media company so it just goes to show what potential the company has and what it can do for the investors trusting in it. The company is continually investing millions of dollars into technology and technological advancements from the new MyMagic+ system implemented into the theme park to talks of drones being used in the parks. With state of the art technology there is always room to be innovative and be a leader in the technology used in the business.

Year over year the company has been able to grow from $42.3B to $45.0B in revenue. The company is expecting sales to go up 6.1% and earnings to grow from last fiscal year. With a 19.2% bottom line growth it shows that the company is headed in the right direction for investors and dividend growth. The Walt Disney company is a top performing stock on the NYSE and although there is not a quick return for investing now, if you invested back in 1957 when the stock first set onto the NYSE, then you certainly have grown your stock tremendously. If you invested just one dollar in 1957 then your stock would be worth well over $5,000.00 today, so not a bad return on such a small investment.


Overall, after evaluating The Walt Disney Company, I see many great opportunities investing in the company. They may have some opportunities in some divisions like Disney Interactive but there are areas like ESPN and the theme parks which have been performing greatly the past few years with projections for growth to increase earning returns over the next 2 years. Personally, I would purchase this stock because it’s safe. You will not get rich quick by purchasing with Disney because the company plays it safe and grows safely. Although Disney has the resources to build 10 other theme parks, add cruise ships, release more mobile apps, or do many other quick expansions, they do not for the right reasons. Disney is a company with a great team of decision makers who have the company headed in a positive, innovative direction so no investor should pass up the opportunity to add this company to their portfolio.


  • Byrd, J., Hickman, K., & McPherson, M. (2013). Managerial Finance. San Diego, CA: Bridge point Education Inc.
  • Cebula, R. J., & McGrath, R. D. (2005). EVIDENCE OF LIQUIDITY CONSTRAINTS FOUND IN THEME PARK TICKET AUCTIONS. Journal of Economics and Finance, 29(1), 112-121. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215568602?accoun tid=32521
  • Company Overview | The Walt Disney Company. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2014.
  • Entwistle, G. M., Feltham, G. D., & Mbagwu, C. (2006). Financial reporting regulation and the reporting of pro forma earnings. Accounting Horizons, 20(1), 39-55. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/208893203?accountid=32521
  • Eisemann, P. C. (1997). Return on equity and systematic ratio analysis. Commercial Lending Re view, 12(3), 51-57. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/229528532?ac countid=32521
  • Financial Statements for walt disney co/the (DIS). (2014, January 1). Retrieved September 27, 2014.
  • Gapenski, L. C. (1996). Using MVA and EVA to measure financial performance. Healthcare Fi nancial Management, 50(3), 56-56, 58, 60. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/ docview/196375670?accountid=32521
  • Mac, D. (2014, May 9). Walt Disney Company Dividend Stock Analysis. Retrieved September 27, 2014, from http://www.dividendgrowthstockinvesting.com/walt-disney-company-div idend-stock-analysis/
  • Miller, J. E., & Bacon, F. W. (2006). THE USEFULNESS OF RATIO ANALYSIS IN PREDICT ING STOCK MARKET RETURNS. Allied Academies International Conference.Acade my of Accounting and Financial Studies.Proceedings, 11(1), 53-57. Retrieved from http:// search.proquest.com/docview/192411948?accountid=32521
  • The Walt Disney Company Annual Report. Fiscal Year 2013. Retrieved September 27, 2014, from http://cdn.media.ir.thewaltdisneycompany.com/2013/annual/10kwrap-2013.pdf

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