DISNEY EARNINGS UP; STOCK SPLIT PLANNED

NEW YORK -- Walt Disney Co., the parent of Fairchild Publications, reported earnings rose 21.5% in the second quarter and said it was planning a three-for-one stock split.illion, or 46 cents, a year ago. Wall Street's average estimate was 51 cents a share.Sales inched up 0.5% to $5.24 billion from $5.2 billion.Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement that

NEW YORK -- Walt Disney Co., the parent of Fairchild Publications, reported earnings rose 21.5% in the second quarter and said it was planning a three-for-one stock split.

illion, or 46 cents, a year ago. Wall Street's average estimate was 51 cents a share.

Sales inched up 0.5% to $5.24 billion from $5.2 billion.

Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement that the Theme Parks and Resorts "continued to lead the company forward during the second quarter" despite start-up costs for its newest park, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Disney Cruise Line. Cable television operations "were also strong contributors to the quarter's results."

Operating income at the creative content segment, which includes licensing, retailing and publishing, decreased 4% to $339 million on a 3% sales decline to $2.4 billion.

Disney said the creative content segment was hurt by lower results in the international theatrical and home-video areas, which were going against a strong 1997 period that saw the release of "101 Dalmatians" and "Ransom" in theaters and "Toy Story" and "Aladdin and the King of Thieves" on video.

These declines were partly offset by increased results at The Disney Store due to higher same-store sales in North America; as well as the release of "Good Will Hunting" and "The Little Mermaid" in theaters, and "Peter Pan" and "Hercules" on video.

Operating income at broadcasting was unchanged while sales gained 4% to $1.6 billion. The Theme Parks and Resorts segment reported operating income gained 18% to $271 million as sales advanced 15% to $1.2 billion.

In the half, Disney's earnings climbed 19% to $1.14 billion, or $1.65 a share, from $957 million, or $1.40 a share, a year ago. Sales rose 3.3% to $11.6 billion from $11.2 billion.

Disney said the stock split is subject to shareholder approval, but is expected to be completed by July. Disney will ask for an amendment allowing it to increase its allowed shares outstanding to 3.6 billion shares from 1.2 billion currently. Disney has 680 million shares.

Separately, Disney's board increased the company's share buyback program to 133 million shares of common stock on a pre-split basis from 87.8 million. Since 1985, Disney has repurchased 93.2 million shares at an average price of 30, investing a total of $2.8 billion.