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Mouse gets a jump

Analysts upbeat ahead of earnings report

Walt Disney shares jumped Tuesday after a sluggish month on strong endorsements from two Wall Street analysts ahead of quarterly earnings due out today.

The stock rose 3.98% to close at $22.98, outrunning the broader market, as UBS Securities analyst Tim Wallace upped his investment rating to “buy” from “hold,” citing strong gains from the theme parks biz, DVD sales and political advertising — but injecting a note of caution regarding ABC heading into the upfronts.

Disney recently ejected top ABC execs Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne, and the net is mired deep in fourth place.

Separately, Credit Suisse First Boston’s William Drewry called the Mouse “an attractive play in the media sector” with significant upside in the next 18-24 months on theme parks and cable.

He thinks the stock could hit $37 in the next 12-18 months.

Drewry sees revenue for the quarter rising 6.6% to $6.9 billion and cash flow surging 31% to $1.07 billion, despite continued weakness at the Alphabet net and a hefty writedown from “The Alamo.”

Some in the industry figure the writeoff could top $100 million.

Drewry sees studio operating profit plunging 52% to $100 million on revenue of $6.5 billion, up 6.5%. Any slim upside in box office came from “Miracle” and “Hidalgo.”

Respite for Eisner

The financial results were generally expected to be upbeat, likely to the great relief of Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Pressure from dissident former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, who tapped into a well of dissatisfaction over the company’s direction, results and stock price in recent years, has made every quarter a bellwether for Eisner’s future.

Disney’s board of directors and its new chairman George Mitchell said several weeks ago that they have full confidence in Eisner’s management. But Mitchell and others have acknowledged that the board will be scrutinizing the company’s performance carefully.

Despite his upbeat assessment, “Disney overall is still a work in progress,” Drewry noted.

Disney stock has drooped over the past month, during which Comcast formally dropped its bid to buy the Mouse and the company was plunged into a tempest regarding distribution —- or lack thereof — of Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911.”

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