What Are Disney Shareholder’s Biggest Questions About the Company
Disney Investor Day 2022 has come and gone. However, we did learn quite a bit about Disney’s upcoming business strategies.
Notably, we learned them from the shareholder question and answer session.
Disney doesn’t cherry-pick these questions, giving shareholders the opportunity to speak their minds.
Some of the questions received remarkable answers, ones that will intrigue Disney fans.
So, what are Disney shareholders’ biggest questions about the company? And how did CEO Bob Chapek respond? Read on to find out!
Let’s Talk Annual Passes
Since Disney leaves this forum open-ended, it’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. We never know what we’ll get.
Surprisingly, the first question involved Disney parks. An individual took way too long to ask his question, but there was some context.
Apparently, he used to attend investor meetings in person. He had previously pressed former CEO Bob Iger on the lack of a complete Disney theme park pass.
In other words, the dude pressed Iger for multiple years for Disney to sell an annual pass that would work at any Disney theme park in the world.
Iger told him this idea was impossible due to the arcane ownership interests at various international parks.
However, this shareholder claims responsibility for the existence of the Premier Passport.
As a reminder, that’s the pass that provides owners with access to Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
Disney stopped selling it during the pandemic. So, the person wants to know when it will return.
Chapek doesn’t provide much intel here. Instead, he follows the same pattern that Iger apparently did back in the day. Nevertheless, the CEO suggests he will look into it.
Lately, Disney has chosen not to sell annual passes at the various theme parks, at least not to out-of-state guests.
Conversely, Disney has prioritized revenue streams that cater to wealthier customers since they’re not as cost-sensitive.
As such, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some movement on the Premier Passport front in the coming months.
If that happens, we should all thank this anonymous shareholder who has helped Disney fans once already. New Premier Passport sales would be twice!
A Weird Proposal and a Concern
One shareholder definitely didn’t understand how Investor Day works. Disney accepts proposals from shareholders throughout the year.
Ones with enough support wind up on the ballot, where they are put up to vote.
During the Q&A session, this person…made a proposal. But, unfortunately, he was like two months too late to help in 2022.
Also, the idea is basically how Disney works anyway. This person suggested that Disney split into three parts: the film division, streaming division, and parks division.
MickeyBlog readers know from our quarterly revenue discussions that executives have already subdivided the company into four core businesses.
Chapek politely informed the person that they’d need to make a formal proposal. He added that Disney is always looking for ways to improve its infrastructure.
I suspect the person meant that Disney should split into three different companies. The odds of that happening are, well, zero point zero.
Meanwhile, another shareholder asked what many of us were wondering. This person wanted to know when Disney would reinstate its stock dividend.
Chapek had anticipated this question and replied quickly and emphatically. He announced that Disney won’t do so until it gains better liquidity.
Disney, like most major corporations, has a debt rating. During the pandemic, Fitch Ratings dropped Disney’s Long-Term Issuer Default Rating to A-.
That may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a concern for the people in charge of the balance sheet at Disney.
Chapek indicated that the dividend is unlikely to return until Disney possesses an A rating again.
Disney’s downgrade occurred late in 2020 and probably won’t change for a while. In other words, don’t expect a dividend on DIS stock in the near future.
Questions about Disney Experiences
The final three questions centered on Disney’s experiences and its philosophy as it moves forward.
One person asks about why Disney has abandoned in-person experiences.
This shareholder references the closure of Disney Stores and Disney’s emphasis on streaming. They wonder how Disney will protect movie-going and other social aspects of fandom.
I may be putting words in their mouth a bit there, but it seems like the gist. After all, Disney has recently emphasized its upcoming metaverse.
That’s little more than a home-brew version of Disney, an augmented reality wherein you can interact with your favorite characters.
However, the metaverse is artificial. That opening night experience of Avengers: Endgame is real:
Disney cannot recreate anything like that in a virtual realm, at least not anytime soon. And the elimination of most Disney Stores feels like a loss to many, including me.
Chapek reinforces my belief about Disney’s plans. He states excitement for “the third dimension of storytelling,” one that combines the physical with the digital.
Right now, corporations only see dollar signs when they drool over the metaverse.
I actually believe Disney may have miscalculated a bit on this subject. I’m an ardent proponent of the metaverse.
Still, I know that the under-39 crowd favors experiential moments more than previous generations. For the time being, Disney has reduced those opportunities.
Finally, the most straightforward question comes from a Disney California Adventure fan.
This person wants to know when Avengers Campus will add more shading; it’s the same complaint Toy Story Land fans have registered at Walt Disney World.
Chapek stresses that guests should have a “magical” park visit and states he’ll take this suggestion under advisement.
In planning expansions, Disney has fallen short on the subject of shade, though. Hopefully, executives recognize that fact now.
One Final Question
This wasn’t the final question, but I saved it for last because it’s the most pressing topic for MickeyBlog readers.
A shareholder asked why Disney hasn’t announced any new park projects recently.
I discussed this topic a bit in another article about Disney’s CFO, Christine McCarthy.
The CFO noted a “bubble event” when Disney takes possession of the Disney Wish this summer. The bill for the $900 million ship comes due then.
Chapek doesn’t use that as an excuse, though. Instead, he comments that the company had to cut expenses during the pandemic.
You could have guessed that from the earlier comment about the DIS stock dividend.
However, Chapek notes that he was extremely excited about the Mary Poppins attraction at EPCOT and the Quinjet at Avengers Campus.
Disney placed those projects on hold due to financial limitations. Judging from Chapek’s phrasing, I don’t think either one is dead, though.
In truth, I’m surprised by his passion for the Mary Poppins ride, which never sounded like anything more than a flat ride.
Apparently, this attraction is much better than it has been described previously. And I don’t think it’s dead, just delayed.
We may hear more about it by the end of the 2022 D-23 Expo.
Feature Image: Matt Stroshane/Bloomberg via Getty Images