Disney interested in buying Yahoo!, but it's 'overvalued'

Anaheim, California - Expect Walt Disney to "pounce and pounce well" when it sees an opportunity to expand its financial empire, says chairman Michael Eisner. But don't expect it to make a big-ticket purchase just to show that it can.

"We are not going to make an acquisition to give journalists headlines, to make bankers wealthy or for our egos," Eisner told a gathering of Wall Street analysts Tuesday.

The meeting, on the same day Disney reported sharply lower net earnings because of losses at its Internet group and an accounting charge, came amid some critics' suggestions that it has been too timid in seeking acquisitions and is becoming a niche player in the entertainment industry.

In response to speculation that Disney might be pursuing Yahoo! as a means to compete with the merged entertainment behemoth AOL Time Warner, Eisner said he would be willing if the price was right.

"Yahoo is a great company," he said. "The problem is it's just overvalued."

Eisner said the decision to cut Disney's losses on its own Web portal,, was one of the most difficult he has had to make. But he said that acquiring the half of and it didn't own from Starwave was worth the gamble.

"It cost us about $150m to fail at," he said. "But now this company is fluent in the Internet vocabulary. Yes, we lost $150m in hard cash. But we gained half of two companies and a lot of knowledge."

Disney reported net income of $63m for the three months ending Dec. 31, down 77% from $278m in the same period a year ago. Much of the decline was due to a loss of $253m in its Internet businesses and a $228m accounting charge to comply with rules on valuing film holdings.

Excluding those charges, Disney reported income of $594m on revenues of $7.31bn, not including its retained interest in the Walt Disney Internet Group, compared with income of $469m the previous year on revenues of $6.82bn.

Income including losses from the Internet division rose to $341m, or 16 cents per share, compared with $278m, or 13 cents per share.

Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson had estimated earnings of 15 cents per share.

Christopher Dixon, an analyst at UBS Warburg, said the results were not surprising and showed that Disney was executing on its plan.

Steven Bornstein, chairman of the Walt Disney Internet Group, told analysts his division would become profitable within 18 months now that it has closed

Bornstein said new broadband initiatives, including "MySportsCenter" from Disney's ESPN cable channel, and pay-per-play online games, to be introduced later this year, would use existing brands to generate revenue. "We remain convinced the Internet is an incredibly powerful marketing medium," he said.

The company reported a number of new initiatives and growth strategies Tuesday, including a direct marketing relationship with Kmart stores for a line of Disney-branded clothes. The company said the deal would allow it to make its apparel more affordable, yet allow it to maintain high margins.

Disney also said it would introduce a cobranded credit card within a year and spoke publicly for the first time about its video-on-demand service, dubbed "MovieBox." The set-top box that would allow movies to be viewed over a wireless connection is still in development, officials said.


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