The strong box office for How to Train Your Dragon 2 that helped DreamWorks Animation beat Q3 earnings forecasts in its report last night wasn’t enough to keep the studio out of Wall Street’s doghouse. Its stock is down 6.6% in afternoon trading – a reversal from last night when shares rose about 5.5% post-market. What changed? CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s refusal in a conference call to discuss the reported buyout talks with Softbank disappointed some who had hoped for a deal. But it seems that several details among the numbers pushed a lot of hot buttons, once analysts had a good chance to look at them.
Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible found enough reasons to abandon his “buy” recommendation today, downgrading DWA to “neutral.” The company, he says, “faces a rough 2015 and now needs to cope with higher cost, a delay in [consumer products] sales, a slower ramp of TV [profit] margin, and lingering impairment risk.” He notes that next year’s B.O. O.: Bureau Of Otherworldly Operations, scheduled for June 5, would come out “between two other promising animated films” — and Kung Fu Panda 3 is due December 23, “the same weekend as Star Wars.” Meanwhile, he warns that consumer product sales for Penguins Of Madagascar “looks like it will be low at only $8 million and leads us to question CP on other films.” He also fears the company will have to take an additional impairment charge on Mr. Peabody & Sherman – following a $57 million one in April — due to weak early home entertainment sales.
Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil also is concerned about another write down, one reason he just lowered his 2015 earnings forecast. He also notes that DWA changed the way it reports its costs, limiting analysts’ ability to make year-over-year comparisons.
Others noted that the strong bottom line numbers were helped by one time financial developments – not just the strong performance of Dragon 2. DWA’s taxes were lower than expected. Earnings also benefited from an adjustment to the valuation of AwesomenessTV, bought last year. And while the feature film operation looked good, “each of the other three revenue segments were slightly below our estimates,” says B. Riley & Co’s Eric Wold.
Following several write-downs — including for Turbo and Return Of The Guardians — some remain unwilling to give the company the benefit of the doubt . “We believe that, as always, risks to our and the Street’s estimates skews to the downside,” Sterne Agee’s Vasily Karasyov says.