DreamWorks Animation execs apparently failed to impress investors with their cautiously upbeat financial forecasts in a conference call after releasing a generally disappointing Q4 earnings report. The company stock price continued to fall in post-market trading as the call progressed, falling 9.1%.
The Street remains concerned about DWA’s liquidity in a year when it will have just one major film release, Home on March 27. The company added $10 million to its debt with a new $215 million revolving credit facility. Total debt now comes to $515 million while DWA’s cash balance fell 30% to $34.2 million. But execs said they will see a jolt of cash from a $185 million deal to sell and then lease back DWA’s studio in Glendale. (UPDATE, Feb 26 PM – A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission today reveals that a subsidiary of SunTrust Equity Funding bought the DWA campus for the $185 million price tag. With a 20-year lease, DWA will be leasing the property back for $13.5 million annually the first year and with 1.5% increase every following year.)
CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg added that the decision to cut costs by slashing the workforce 18% and producing two films a year instead of three put “the right strategic plans into place to ensure both the creative success of our films and the financial performance of our company over the long-term.”
Anticipating a “break-even year or better” — depending on Home‘s performance — Katzenberg predicted that the television operation will generate as much as $250 million in revenues with a gross profit margin of about 30%. Consumer products sales are expected to double to about $130 million with a mid-30% profit margin.
He’s encouraged by licensed merchandise sales tied to two DWA releases for Netflix: Voltron and Dinotrux. “There are more kids watching Netflix today than any other platform in North America,” Katzenberg says. “It’s a powerful powerful platform and a lot of that is meaningful.”
But he’s especially excited by sales opportunities for the 2016 film Trolls. It’s “probably going to be the greatest opportunity that we’ve had of any movie since we started the company,” the CEO says. “Having a team in place that can actually fully exploit and get value out of that is essential for us.” While merchandise is “s a nice business is growing very strongly for us …the lift off moment for them I think is going to be driven by Trolls.”
Another milestone this year will be the announcement of an original film for 2018, along with its cast. Katzenberg says it will be released in China in the first quarter of that year with an international release to follow.