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Disney shares fall after analyst downgrades stock over pandemic concerns

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Disney shares fall after analyst downgrades stock over pandemic concerns 1

Disney shares dipped more than 2 percent Monday after a Wall Street analyst cautioned that the company has a lot of work to do before it rebounds from the pandemic and its economic fallout.

BMO analyst Daniel Salmon, who lowered the rating on Disney stock from “outperform” to “market perform,” said streaming giant Netflix was his “top pick” in the space, despite Disney’s lengthy investor presentation Friday touting its rival Disney+ streaming service, which goosed the company’s stock last week.  

In a report titled “Now the Hard Part Begins,” Salmon said Monday that he has decided to “step to the sidelines” even as Disney+, which has garnered over 80 million subscribers since last fall, rolled out a souped-up slate of new shows for the next few years, including 10 new “Star Wars” series.  

“We believe improved vaccination rates could help Disney continue to be a solid ‘re-opening’ play,” he wrote. “To be sure, the Disney+ sub forecasts surpassed the most bullish expectations, and were supported by an incredible amount of new content.”

Nevertheless, the analyst cited uncertainties linked to the pandemic which has crushed the company’s theme park and movie businesses. Salmon added that even though a COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out, he preferred media stocks like Netflix, Google and Amazon. 

Part of Salmon’s reasoning was a lack of detail on how the company would grow ESPN’s streaming brand, ESPN+, as live sports have been crushed by the pandemic. He also added that Disney didn’t offer an update on “major films moving to Disney+ versus theatrical runs.”

Unlike rival Warner Bros., which recently decided to release its slate of 2021 films on HBO Max a month after they premiere in theaters, Disney has taken a more conventional approach. The company has three major flicks slated for cinemas next year, including “Black Widow” (May 7), which was delayed a year by the novel coronavirus.

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