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Hasbro 4Q profit rises on sales of boys' products

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Hasbro Inc., the nation's second biggest toymaker, said Monday its profit surged in the fourth quarter on sales of boys' action figures and other toys as well as strong licensing revenue.

The owner of the Transformers, Tonka and Playskool brands also said it expects sales and earnings per share to grow this year although it didn't offer specific estimates.

Its shares climbed $3.50, or 11.5 percent, to $34.38 in morning trading after rising to a 52-week high of $34.42 earliuer in the session.

The fourth quarter is key for toy makers since it contains the holiday period and can make up to half of the quarter's sales.

Hasbro said its profit surged 77 percent to $165.6 million, or $1.09 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 27, easily beating the 81 cents-per-share estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. These estimates normally exclude one-time items.

The company, based in Pawtucket, R.I., reported earnings of $93.6 million, or 62 cents per share, for the fourth quarter a year ago.

Sales climbed 12 percent to $1.38 billion from $1.23 billion, topping Wall Street's estimate of $1.34 billion. Taking out the impact of foreign currency translations, revenue increased a more modest 7 percent.

Last month Barbie-maker Mattel Inc., Hasbro's chief rival, said its fourth-quarter profit rose 86 percent, helped by cost cutting, while sales edged up 1 percent to $1.96 billion.

Hasbro said its North American results reflected stronger sales of toys for boys, while girls and preschool were weaker. Entertainment and licensing revenue climbed 44 percent to $155 million on growth in its lifestyle licensing and digital gaming.

For the year, Hasbro's earnings grew 22 percent to $374.9 million, or $2.48 per share, compared with $306.8 million, or $2 per share, in 2008.

Annual sales improved to $4.07 billion from $4.02 billion. Excluding positive foreign currency translations, revenue rose 3 percent.

The results extended the toy maker's streak to nine straight years of earnings per share growth and five straight years of revenue growth.

Toys tied to TV shows and movies have performed well for Hasbro. In 2010, the company will have toys linked to "Iron Man 2" and "Toy Story 3." The 2011 slate includes "Stretch Armstrong," "Spider-Man 4," "Transformers 3" and "Avenger Captain America."

The company is also moving forward on a sequel to "G.I. Joe" with Paramount.