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Launch of New Walt Disney Company Projects Should Boost Financial Results

Analysts Predict 'Strong' Growth Across Vacation Businesses

By Jason Garcia and Sara K. Clarke, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 05, 2012--The Walt Disney Co. reports fiscal third-quarter earnings on Tuesday, and the company's accompanying commentary should offer an early glimpse at how some of the biggest of its recent theme-park investments are paying off.

During the April-to-June quarter, Disney launched the $900 million-plus Disney Fantasy cruise ship, opened two of four phases of its $350 million Disney's Art of Animation Resort hotel at Walt Disney World, and completed the $1.1 million overhaul of its Disney California Adventure theme park in Anaheim, Calif.

Deutsche Bank analyst Doug Mitchelson predicts "strong" growth across Disney's U.S. vacation businesses, with revenue up 11 percent to more than $2.8 billion and earnings before interest and taxes jumping 20 percent to $556 million.

Among the projected drivers: $100 million or more of new cruise revenue generated by the Fantasy (though launch costs will likely wipe out any profit for the quarter), 4 percent combined attendance growth at Disney World and Disneyland, and a two-percentage-point increase in the domestic hotel-occupancy rate.

Growth likely to continue

For the rest of the fiscal year, Mitchelson says, Disney's parks business will benefit from the opening of Cars Land at California Adventure, the end of startup costs for the Fantasy and Disney Dream, and ticket-price increases that were initiated two weeks earlier this year than those in 2011.

Fantasyland preview

And things are becoming clearer about when Disney's next big project will debut.

Disney World last week notified annual passholders that it plans to hold a preview event in November for the Enchanted Forest section of its $425 million Fantasyland expansion. Further registration details will be released soon.

The Fantasyland phase that Disney will debut late this year is the biggest of the multiyear expansion project. It will feature a Little Mermaid-themed ride and a Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant, among other additions.

A Snow White-themed family roller coaster will follow sometime in 2014.

Legoland discounts abound

Legoland Florida has been showering its Facebook fans with ticket discounts this summer, as the Winter Haven theme park faces its first year of competing with theme-park giants Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando for summer vacationers.

The new theme park announced in July that children could get in free with specially marked Burger King crowns and the purchase of a full-priced adult admission. It then offered a deal of two Water Park combo tickets for $90, a 48 percent discount off the regular price.

The park also rolled out a promotion last month with Orlando City Soccer Club, the United Soccer League's professional men's team with whom it inked a partnership agreement earlier this year. The "official family theme park" of the Orlando City Lions said it would give visitors free admission if they brought their ticket stub from the team's July 28 home match. That deal is good through Aug. 31. or 407-420-5414; or 407-420-5664


(c)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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