Investors are casting a jaundiced eye on last night’s news about DreamWorks Animation’s delayed release of Mr. Peabody and Sherman (to Spring 2014 from 2013), and the removal of Me & My Shadow from the 2014 list. The stock is down 3.8% in mid-afternoon trading to $16.76, and has sold today for as little $16.26. Piper Jaffray’s James Marsh downgraded the company to “Neutral,” and reduced his price target to $18 from $25. He’s concerned because “this is the second time the company has backed away from a more ambitious three film per year slate and all of its economic benefits.” What’s more, it means that there’s additional pressure for DreamWorks Animation to succeed this year with The Croods and Turbo. Following the lower-than-expected box office for Rise Of The Guardians, “a disappointment by Croods sets in place a trend.” He notes that Croods is “tracking light” while “Turbo faces a tough competitive environment this summer.”
News of the delays initially led Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible to cut 8 cents from his earnings per share estimate for 2013, taking it to 35 cents, although he raised his 2014 EPS forecast to $1.19 from $1.11. But paradoxically, the reports that followed about planned layoffs — my colleague Jen Yamato says it could come to 500 employees, about 23% of the animators, tech, and support staff — makes some on Wall Street a little more optimistic. Wible figures that Shadow won’t be seen in 2014, and that DreamWorks Animation could cut its quarterly expenses by $30M. After factoring that in, he raised his earnings estimate for 2013 to 46 cents, but trimmed 2014 to $1.09.