Monday November 15, 5:55 pm Eastern Time

Toys R Us Reports Jump in Profits

PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) -- Toys R Us Inc.'s [NYSE:TOY - news] third-quarter profits jumped 55 percent from a year ago, fueled by strong sales of popular toys such as Pokemon trading cards, Furby dolls and video games.

The giant toystore chain said Monday that it earned $31 million, or 13 cents a share, in the third quarter ended Oct. 30, compared with $20 million, or 8 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

The results topped Wall Street analysts' estimates of 8 cents a share. The Paramus, N.J.-based company's stock rose $1.43 3/4 to $17.93 3/4 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The 1999 results excluded a $17 million charge to cover costs associated with the company's Internet unit,, and a severance agreement for Robert Nakasone, who left the company abruptly in August after the company reported disappointing earnings.

The 1998 results exclude a $495 million charge to cover costs associated with the closing of 90 stores, eliminating 3,000 jobs and restructuring of its inventory systems.

Sales rose nearly 14 percent to $2.46 billion in the third quarter, up from $2.17 billion a year ago.

Michael Goldstein, chairman and acting chief executive officer, said sales in comparable U.S. stores jumped 13 percent in the third quarter -- the highest increase in 10 years --and 6 percent in the first nine months.

Besides the strong sales of some popular toys, the company also attributed the gains in earnings to its aggressive renovation of its stores, making them easier to navigate and adding more electronics, party goods and educational toys.

Toys R Us said 170 stores are now operating under the new format and the front section of an additional 230 stores have be renovated. That represents about 70 percent of tis U.S. stores.

During the quarter, the company also revamped its Internet unit. It appointed a new CEO to lead, redesigned the look of the Web site and beefed up everything from customer service to what merchandise it was offering.

``We think it should be a very good Christmas, a very good holiday season,'' Goldstein predicted. ``We have better (toy) stocks, our customer service has improved ... and then there's a lot of big, hot toys out there. The problem is going to be running out of the hot toys'' before the holidays.

Toys R Us, long the largest toy chain in the United States, fell behind Wal-Mart last year as the No. 1 retailer in terms of sales.

For the first nine months, Toys R Us earned $63 million or 26 cents per share, compared with $53 million or 20 cents per share, a year ago. Sales for the first nine months hit $6.8 billion, up nearly 10 percent from $6.2 billion a year earlier.

Toys R Us operates 1,534 stores: 707 in the United States; 450 international toy stores; 205 Kids R Us children's clothing stores; 127 Babies R Us stores and 45 Imaginarium stores.

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