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Zika virus

Disney sees no Florida fallout from Zika virus, rejecting analyst’s concerns

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 September, 2016, 3:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 September, 2016, 6:58am

Walt Disney said the Zika virus isn’t hurting its theme-park business in Orlando, Florida, disputing concerns raised by an analyst.

The virus is having “no real impact on cancellations or future bookings,” a Disney spokeswoman said in an interview Thursday. The comments reiterated those of Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger, who said on an August 9 earnings conference call that the virus wasn’t hurting business.

BTIG LLC analyst Rich Greenfield, citing a survey of travellers, said Zika cases in Florida may be causing vacationers to reconsider plans to visit resorts including Disney parks in Orlando. About half of roughly 800 people planning trips to the area said they have cancelled or decided not to visit Walt Disney World due to the threat of the virus, based on a 5,000-person survey earlier this month by CivicScience, a Pittsburgh-based consumer polling firm cited by Greenfield in a research note Thursday.

Disney, based in Burbank, California, is the world’s largest theme-park operator. Greenfield has been recommending investors sell the stock since December 2015.

With growth at Disney’s ESPN network slowing and the film studio and consumer unit facing tough comparisons, the company is relying on the parks to drive growth in fiscal 2017, he wrote.

While the survey suggests travelers have Zika fears, it’s not clear that will show up in Disney’s attendance numbers, Greenfield wrote.

“Given how meaningfully the cancellation/deferral rate appears to be, this is clearly a key question Disney should be pushing management to talk about,” he wrote.

Disney shares rose 0.2 percent to $92.42 in New York. The stock is down 12 percent this year as of Wednesday.