Hasbro upbeat on 2014 despite weak holidays; shares rise

Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:01pm EST

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(Reuters) - Hasbro Inc (HAS.O) touted a series of toys based on the fourth "Transformers" sequel and other upcoming films, overshadowing concern about its weak North American holiday season and sending its shares up nearly 6 percent.

Earlier on Monday, the stock had fallen after the maker of Nerf foam toys and Monopoly board games posted lower-than-expected results for the fourth quarter, when the company and its peers typically make about 40 percent of their annual revenue.

"2014 is the first of a robust multiyear entertainment slate for our boys brands," Hasbro Chief Executive Officer Brian Goldner said on a call with analysts and investors.

"Transformers: Age of Extinction" is scheduled for release in the summer and will feature new characters and story lines.

Hasbro also has rights to make toys tied to movies from Marvel Studios, including "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and a new franchise called "Guardians of the Galaxy," as well as Sony's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."

Many on Wall Street chose to focus on Hasbro's growth prospects in 2014 rather than the holiday weakness.

"The bull story on this has been about 2014," said MKM Partners LLC analyst Eric Handler. "People are feeling good about 2014."

He said he saw more catalysts for growth for the second-largest U.S. toy company over larger rival Mattel Inc (MAT.O) this year.

Hasbro is also bound to gain from its partnership with Lucasfilm, which will unveil the new "Star Wars Rebels" television series in late 2014, analysts said.

TOUGH HOLIDAYS

The latest U.S. holiday season turned out to be one of the weakest since 2008, when the U.S. economy was reeling from a recession. Bad weather, limited discretionary dollars for many shoppers and six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2013 hurt sales for many companies.

Mattel missed analysts' expectations in the quarter covering the key selling season.

Hasbro said its net earnings fell to $129.8 million, or 98 cents a share, in the fourth quarter from $130.3 million, or 99 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding restructuring charges and other items, Hasbro earned $1.12 a share, missing the analysts' average estimate of $1.22, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales were flat at $1.28 billion, while analysts expected $1.30 billion.

Industrywide, demand was particularly weak for action figures and preschool toys, two important categories for Mattel and Hasbro.

Shares of Hasbro were up 5.8 percent at $53.02 in midday trading.

(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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