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Mattel Look Ahead for Yugioh Cards ABCNews.com Oct 17,2002

Mattel Look Ahead for Yugioh Cards
ABCNews.com
Oct 17,2002
Item# matlookahfor

Product Description


N E W   Y O R K, Oct. 17 Mattel Inc., boosted by sales of its core brands like Barbie and Hot Wheels, reported a 40 percent increase in earnings for the third quarter, exceeding Wall Street projections. Its shares climbed 18 percent.

But the chairman and chief executive of the world's largest toy maker warned Thursday of "bumps along way" as the company approaches the critical holiday season.

"Last year, we were faced with the devastating effects that the events of Sept. 11 had on the economy and consumer confidence," said CEO Robert Eckert during a conference call with analysts. "This year, it has been an uncertain stock market, the threat of impending war, and finally the unfolding drama of the West Coast ports."

Mattel earned $280.6 million, or 63 cents a share, in the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with $199.8 million, or 46 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding charges of $27.3 million, Mattel earned $256.7 million, or 58 cents per share, in the quarter. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call expected earnings of 55 cents per share for the quarter.

Sales in the quarter rose 6 percent to $1.67 billion from $1.58 billion in the year-ago period.

The girls division achieved worldwide gross sales of $727.6 million, an increase of 2 percent with results driven by international growth in the Barbie brand, as well as growth in the Polly Pocket and American Girl brands.

Worldwide gross sales for the boys-entertainment division, which consists of the wheels and entertainment categories, were up 9 percent at $461.8 million. The wheels category posted an 8 percent increase in worldwide sales, driven by strong international sales.

Worldwide sales for the infant and preschool business were up 9 percent. were $629.5 million. The division includes the Fisher-Price, Sesame Street and Disney brands.

As for holiday hits, Eckert told analysts that the Barbie Rapunzel line and My Scene, a new line of Barbie dolls aimed at the pre-teen market, are faring well. Sales of entertainment properties such as Yu-Gi-Oh! and He-Man and Masters of the Universe, are also strong, as well as Octoblast, which is this year's key Hot Wheels track set. Within the Fisher-Price division, Rescue Heroes and Kasey the Kinderbot are off to a good start, he said. And the company is betting on Chicken Dance Elmo as a key holiday hit.

Still, Eckert acknowledges it will be a challenging holiday season, particularly given the backlog of merchandise resulting from the 10-day shutdown of 29 West Coast ports. Retailing experts believe that it will take four to six weeks for goods to get into the stores, barely in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Mattel, which reported that it has about $74 million to $100 million in wholesale volume worth of merchandise, including key toys, stuck on the water, said it is concerned that retailers may cancel orders if goods don't arrive on time.

"Exactly how long it takes to clear up the port is anyone's guess," Eckert said.

Mattel has now begun to selectively ship certain toys by air, and is working with retailers to get the products as soon as possible. That includes skipping its distribution centers once it gets the products off the boats.

Still, Margaret Whitfield, an analyst at Brean Murray & Co., said that the amount of Mattel inventory stuck on the water was smaller than she expected, and represents a tiny portion of the company's fourth-quarter sales volume, which she estimates to be $1.6 billion.

Whitfield noted that she has spoken to toy retailers K-B Toys Inc. and Toys "R" Us, and they said they have enough goods through early December. The two combined account for more than 20 percent of the nation's toy sales.

But the challenge is: "Will they have enough goods to handle reorders? We need to continue the flow of product," she said.

For the first nine months of the year, Mattel earned $44 million, or 10 cents a share, versus $160.9 million, or 37 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue rose to $3.2 billion from $3.1 billion.

Shares of Mattel rose $2.93, or 18.5 percent, to $18.78 per share in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.





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