Tuesday February 8, 6:10 pm Eastern Time

Hasbro Earnings Up 18 Percent

Associated Press Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Hasbro Inc.'s (NYSE:HAS - news) fourth-quarter earnings rose 18 percent from a year ago, beating expectations thanks to strong sales of Pokemon toys, Furby dolls and hand-held electronic games.

The Pawtucket, R.I.-based company said Tuesday that it earned $155.4 million, or 79 cents per share, compared with $131.8 million, or 65 cents per share, in the same period last year.

Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial had expected the nation's second-largest toymaker to earn 75 cents a share.

Sales for the quarter increased 22 percent to $1.6 billion, compared with $1.3 billion one year ago.

Fueling the gains were strong sales of Furby, the interactive furry doll that was introduced in 1998 but still sold a stunning 12 million units last year. Also lifting sales and profits were its hand-held electronic games, most of which are made by its Tiger Electronics division, and its toys based on the popular Japanese cartoon Pokemon.

The company also credited strong sales of core brands such as Monopoly, Yahtzee and Trivial Pursuit.

Wizards of the Coast, which Hasbro bought in September, accounted for about $237 million in sales. Wizards sells Pokemon trading cards as well as the popular game Dungeons & Dragons.

Strength in those divisions helps offset troubles in other areas.

Hasbro met its sales forecast for toys based on the new ``Star Wars'' movie ``Episode I: The Phantom Menace,'' but some analysts said the performance was disappointing. The company hopes for a boost from the movie's spring video release.

``They started off the year giving this a lowball estimate of $650 million (in sales), which is what they hit,'' said Joseph Kinnison, a Minneapolis-based analyst at American Express Financial Advisors. ``I think we all knew that that was the worst-case scenario.''

Jill Krutick, an analyst at Salomon Smith Barney, blamed ``waning enthusiasm'' for some Star Wars products. She said that they had about $100 million to $150 million in excess inventory of the line.

Hasbro's interactive software unit fared poorly in the fourth quarter and for the year, with a $53 million after-tax loss for all of 1999. The company blamed the shortfall partly on an industry-wide slump in video and CD-ROM sales.

``The company said its original (interactive software) plan going into the year was $300 million revenue. They missed by 25 percent,'' Kinnison said. ``I don't think this was a Hasbro-specific indication. The rampant price discounting we've seen in the education segment may have spilled over.''

The fourth-quarter results excluded a $141.6 million pre-tax charge to cover costs from a reorganization that included cutting 2,200 jobs or 19 percent of its work force, closing two plants and shifting much of its manufacturing to Asia.

Taking into account consolidation costs, Hasbro's net income for the quarter ended Dec. 26 was $57.7 million or 29 cents a share, compared to $131.8 million, or 65 cents per share, the year before.

Net earnings for the year increased 30 percent to $286.6 million, or $1.42 per share, compared to $220 million, or $1.07 per share, the year before. Sales for the year increased 28 percent to $4.2 billion, compared to $3.3 billion the year before.

Hasbro remains second to toymaker Mattel (NYSE:MAT - news), which saw $5.5 billion in sales last year. Mattel's chief executive officer Jill Barad stepped down last week after the El Segundo, Calif.-based company reported a steep loss in the fourth quarter.

Hasbro owns the Playskool, Kenner, Tonka, Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers and Galoob toy and game brands. This summer, Hasbro plans to launch Games.com, an online games portal.

Hasbro shares rose 18 3/4 cents to $16.25 in trading at 5:15 p.m. on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Article is quoted from Yahoo News and is not edited in any way.
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