(Adds CEO and analyst comments, stock rise)
NEW YORK, April 21 (Reuters) - Hasbro Inc HAS.N, the No. 2 U.S. toy company, posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Monday, helped by strong demand for its Transformers and Littlest Pet Shop lines, sending its shares up 9 percent.
The maker of Monopoly board games said first-quarter profit climbed 14 percent to $37.5 million, or 25 cents a share, from $32.9 million, or 19 cents a share, a year earlier.
Sales rose 13 percent to $704.2 million.
Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 14 cents a share on sales of $582.2 million, according to Reuters Estimates.
Hasbro said sales climbed 6 percent in the United States and Canada and 22 percent internationally.
The first quarter can be a challenging time of year for toy makers as demand falls after the holiday shopping period, when most purchases are made.
“Hasbro’s sales gain was extremely impressive,” said Sterne Agee analyst Margaret Whitfield. “Star Wars and board games are performing well ... They have done an incredible job across the board.” Whitfield has a “buy” rating on Hasbro, the industry No. 2 behind Mattel Inc MAT.N.
Hasbro is aiming to boost sales during the second quarter as it rolls out items tied to potential blockbuster summer films “Iron Man,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “The Incredible Hulk.”
The company said it expects sales and earnings per share to rise this year.
“Retail expectations for all three movies ... are quite a bit better today than they were at the beginning of the year,” Chief Executive Alfred Verrecchia said on a conference call.
“Initial sales of our Iron Man product as well as initial sales of a number of Indiana Jones offerings already on the market in other categories have been above expectations,” he added.
Hasbro said earlier this year that it expected challenges in 2008 as it absorbs the higher cost of doing business in China. It previously said costs would rise due to the appreciation of the Chinese currency, product testing, and higher prices for labor and commodities.
Hasbro’s shares, which have traded in a 52-week range of $21.70 to $33.48, were up $3.01 to $34.56 in early trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Justin Grant; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)