The Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO Bob Iger tried to calm investor fears surrounding the continued spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 at the company’s annual meeting Wednesday, telling investors that despite challenges, the entertainment has successfully navigated crises, including wars, economic downturns and natural disasters, before.
There are more than 122,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and nearly 4,400 people have died from the illness. In the U.S., more than 1,000 confirmed cases of the virus have been diagnosed, with about 32 deaths reported.
In addition to its film and TV divisions, Disney has considerable interests in theme parks and cruise lines, sectors that have been particularly hard hit as consumers are reluctant to travel as the virus spreads. Disney also has a major theme park in China, which has been identified as the epicenter of COVID-19.
“We’re all sobered by the concern that we feel for everyone affected by this global crisis,” Iger said at Disney’s annual meeting of shareholders in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, adding that the company has been “incredibly resilient” throughout its nearly 100-year history.
“Our future has always been bright and remains so for good reason,’ he continued. “What we create at the Walt Disney Company has never been more necessary or more important.”
Iger’s words didn’t seem to have much of an impact on Disney stock, which fell along with the rest of the market as coronavirus fears continued to decimate shares. Disney stock was down about 6% ($6.74 each) to $104.72 per share in early trading Wednesday. Disney’s fall coincided with an overall decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was down more than 1,000 points before midday. The index has lost about 18% of its value since Feb. 13.
“These are obviously really challenging times, stay healthy please,” Iger said to close out the annual meeting. “While all companies like Disney are affected by what’s going on, we are confident long-term in our prospects. The resiliency of the company has been demonstrated time and time again over the almost 100 years we’ve been in business and I know we will do that as well.”