BURBANK, Calif. -- Like a beast turning into a prince, Walt Disney Co. has transformed a disappointing 1991 into a lucrative 1992, coming within a shade of setting a record profit.
Bolstered by such hit films as "Beauty and the Beast," "Sister Act," "Father of the Bride" and "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle," Disney yesterday posted a 29 percent jump in earnings, to $223.7 million in the fourth quarter, which ended Sept. 30, on revenue of $2.1 billion.
For the year, Disney earned $816.7 million, up 28 percent from a year earlier, on $7.5 billion in revenue. The year-end profit was barely off from the record $824 million in net income earned in 1990.
But results weren't so beautiful at Euro Disney SCA, operator of Disney's first European park. The company, 49 percent owned
by Disney, posted a disappointing annual loss of about $35 million and said it expects to be unprofitable for another year. Euro Disney blamed the results on the sagging economic conditions throughout Europe.
The loss in its European venture has not deterred Disney from planning other overseas operations.
Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner said Wednesday night that the company will build the $3 billion ocean-oriented theme ,, park it had proposed for Long Beach in Tokyo.
Disney's big annual profit for the fiscal year came in the midst of an ailing domestic and global economy. Despite those problems, results for Disney's theme parks and resorts group improved considerably from last year's dismal performance. Operating profits jumped 44 percent in the fourth quarter, to $213.9 million, and rose 18 percent for the year, to $644 million.
Disney stock closed at $40.88, up 63 cents.
Chief Financial Officer Richard D. Nanula said the upswing at the theme parks was due partly to new hotel rooms in Florida and a 20th anniversary Disney World promotion. Even so, Disney's park and resort business continues to be hurt by the sputtering economy, remaining well off its pace of the late 1980s and 1990.
Disney's clear standout was its film, television and videocassette business. Operating profit for Disney's filmed entertainment group jumped 21 percent in the fourth quarter, to $121.6 million, and soared 60 percent for the year, to $508.2 million.
Also posting strong results was Disney's consumer products segment, mostly due to the merchandising tie-ins with films such as "The Little Mermaid," "101 Dalmations" and "Beauty and the Beast." Operating profit for that business rose 49 percent, to $283.3 million, for the fiscal year.
Disney's year-end results did not include sales from the just-released videocassette version of "Beauty and the Beast," which is setting records, nor results from the new hit, "The Mighty Ducks," and the just-released "Aladdin."