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Will Disney Stock Crash in 2021?

These are interesting times for the House of Mouse. Shares of Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) are less than 8% away from hitting all-time highs as of Thursday's close. The success of Disney+ has been stellar, but that's just 7% of the media giant's business. Adding Mickey pretzel salt to the wound, it would be even less of the revenue mix if the rest of Disney's businesses were performing better.

Disney is in a rut, even if the stock price suggests otherwise. Its theme parks continue to lose money. The studio entertainment arm that cranked out all six of this country's top-grossing films last year isn't playing nice with the local multiplex right now. Its media networks segment is holding up nicely, but Disney has yet to prove that it can survive the cord-cutting revolution.

This isn't Disney at its best, and that makes the consumer-facing bellwether a risk in the year ahead. We're in a recession. We're in a pandemic. Disney could crash next year. Let's go over some of the reasons why a sharp decline in price isn't likely to happen in 2021.

Image source: Walt Disney.

And they lived happily ever after

Entertaining the world isn't as lucrative as it used to be for Mickey Mouse and his pals. Disney revenue has plummeted 42% and 23% in the past two quarters. It's posting losses for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Disney was never much of a draw for income investors given its pedestrian yield, but at least it used to declare distributions. It suspended its semi-annual payouts earlier this year, and there is no telling when the dividend will be back.

Disneyland in California and its fleet of four cruise ships aren't going to be welcoming guests anytime soon. Bypassing multiplex operators to distribute its films directly through its own streaming services isn't growing its studio entertainment segment's top line.

The list of negatives is long, but the only positive you need to remember is that this is Disney. It has several wildly profitable franchises in its arsenal, and we've seen over the past how how something as simple as a spin-off -- The Mandalorian -- can catapult Disney+ into the upper echelon of premium digital services.

The theme parks are struggling, but those that have reopened are losing less money than they would if they hadn't opened at all. When we get past the pandemic and the recession -- and there's no reason to think that vanquishing the former early in 2021 will be quickly followed by the latter -- there's going to be some heavy pent-up demand for a visit to Disneyland or taking the family on a Disney cruise.

Disney has pushed out a lot of its big theatrical releases to 2021, and if the climate isn't kinder at the box office the media giant will get better at digital monetization. Disney is a hit factory, and at the end of the day you don't bet against a proven producer.

There's a lot that isn't clicking at Disney these days, but the pixie dust is there for the taking in 2021. Disney stock may have gotten ahead of its current fundamentals, but the class act among media stocks is not going to crash next year.

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Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short January 2021 $135 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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