Disney takes $1.4 billion coronavirus hit, sets date to reopen Shanghai park

(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) estimated global coronavirus lockdowns cut profits by $1.4 billion (1.1 billion pounds), mostly from its shuttered theme parks, but said it would reopen Shanghai Disneyland next week.

FILE PHOTO: The sign of Walt Disney Studios Park is seen at the entrance of Disneyland Paris, in Marne-la-Vallee, near Paris, France, March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Disney posted adjusted earnings per share of 60 cents for January through March, down 63% from a year earlier and short of the 89 cents expected by analysts, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

CEO Robert Chapek said Disney would relaunch in phases starting with the Shanghai park on May 11. Disney will control attendance using an “advanced reservation and entry system” and enforce social distancing and other health precautions including requiring masks and temperature screening.

“While it’s too early to predict when we’ll be able to begin resuming all of our operations, we are evaluating a number of different scenarios to ensure a cautious, sensible and deliberate approach to the eventual reopening of our parks,” Chapek said.

Disney shares rose less than 1% in after-hours trade, after losing 2% during the regular session. Before the earnings report, Disney’s shares had lost more than one-quarter of their value this year.

Just three months ago, Disney was boasting about a record year for its movie studio and a strong start to the company’s dive into the streaming media wars.

In late January, the coronavirus started battering businesses across Disney’s global portfolio when the company shuttered Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland.

By mid-March, all of the company’s theme parks were closed, movie theaters went dark, and television and film production was put on hold. Plus, Disney’s ESPN sports network was left with no major live sports to broadcast.

“In total, we estimate that the COVID-19 impacts on our current quarter income from continuing operations before income taxes across all of our businesses was as much as $1.4 billion,” Disney said, adding that $1 billion of that came from losses at theme parks.

Disney is expected to take a larger hit in the current quarter, which ends in June.

One area gaining as audiences shelter at home is Disney+, the streaming service the company launched in November. The company announced on April 8 that Disney+ had signed up more than 50 million paying subscribers.

The direct-to-consumer and international unit, which includes Disney+, is still spending large sums to build the service. The division lost $812 million in the just-ended quarter, less than the analyst forecast of $861 million.

At the parks, experiences and products division, operating income dropped 58% from a year earlier to $639 million.

Media networks, which include ESPN and broadcaster ABC, reported profit of $2.4 billion. That was a 7% increase from a year earlier, boosted in part by the addition of the FX and National Geographic Networks purchased from 21st Century Fox.

Profit at the movie studio fell 8% from a year earlier to $466 million. Disney released Pixar movie “Onward” just before theaters closed, then quickly moved it to video on demand for home viewers.

Overall revenue for the quarter rose 21% to $18 billion, just ahead of analyst forecasts of $17.8 billion.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Lisa Shumaker

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