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Disney Edges Past Estimates

Walt Disney stock could rise Wednesday after the entertainment giant posted fiscal fourth-quarter earnings that exceeded reduced Wall Street forecasts.

Excluding a charge, the company turned a profit from operations of $360 million, or 16 cents a share, compared to pro forma net income of $390 million, or 19 cents in the same period a year ago. Disney was expected to earn 15 cents, according to analysts surveyed by First Call.

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The shares (DIS) rose 3/4 to 29 9/16 ahead of the news, which came out after the closing bell.

Revenue rose to $6.1 billion from $5.4 million on a pro forma basis, while income from operations declined to $751 million from $927 million.

Creative Content, including motion pictures and television productions, generated $2.9 billion in revenue, up from $2.6 billion a year earlier. Operating income fell 39 percent to $253 million, as the weak theatrical performances of Holy Man and Beloved had to be written off. The results seemed particularly poor compared to the year-ago quarter, when Scream was still generating significant dollars at the box office.

Increased programming costs at the ABC television network - particularly its $4.4 billion renewal of Monday Night Football rights - helped pull down broadcasting-cable numbers for the quarter, along with start-up losses related to cable's ESPN Classic Sports, ESPN International, Toon Disney and other ventures. Operating broadcast income fell 18 percent to $197 million from $241 million.

For its part, ESPN continued to post solid growth, driven by higher ad sales and an increase in subscribers.

Theme parks and resorts saw revenue rise 18 percent to $1.5 billion, and operating income rose 11 percent to $301 million.

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