February 11, 2010 / 12:11 PM / in 8 years

UPDATE 3-LeapFrog sees strong 2010 after stellar holidays

* Q4 EPS 46 cents vs Street view 24 cents

* Sales soar 37 pct, beat Street view

* Sees sales momentum continuing in 2010

* Shares up 25 pct

* CEO to become executive chairman; names CFO (Adds background, conf call comments, byline, updates stock activity)

By Dhanya Skariachan

NEW YORK, Feb 11 (Reuters) - LeapFrog Enterprises Inc’s LF.N holiday-quarter handily topped Wall Street estimates on strong demand for its interactive toys and books and it forecast faster-than-expected sales growth for 2010, sending its shares soaring 25 percent.

The company, which sells more than 150 interactive learning toys and books covering subjects from math to music, expects net sales to rise 10 to 20 percent in 2010. The average growth estimate was 12 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

LeapFrog also said its chief executive, Jeffrey Katz, will take over the role of executive chairman effective March 1, and Finance Chief Bill Chiasson will succeed him as CEO.

The company also named Mark Etnyre as the company’s CFO. Etnyre joined LeapFrog two years ago from Microsoft (MSFT.O) where he held various financial roles.

CEO Katz attributed the strong holiday-quarter sales to demand for the company’s Tag and Tag Junior reading systems, their software-based books and a new line of Scout toys.

“We are entering 2010 with momentum and lean retail inventories ... We expect significant sales and earnings growth to continue in 2010 and beyond,” Katz said in a statement.

The company said on a conference call with investors that it plans to expand its distribution to include book retailers, drug stores and grocery stores as well. LeapFrog products are currently available online and at toy stores, department stores and electronics stores.

    LeapFrog expects its customer base to more than double to a range of 6 million to 7 million after the 2010 holiday season.

    For the first quarter, it expects net sales to be “significantly above” the full-year growth rate of 2010.

    LeapFrog shares were up 94 cents at $4.65, making it the top percentage gainer on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday morning.

    Fourth-quarter profit was $29.4 million, or 46 cents a share, compared with a loss of $44.1 million, or 69 cents a share, a year earlier.

    Net sales jumped 37 percent to $188.6 million, outpacing its forecast of $155 million to $170 million.

    The company, whose rivals include Mattel Inc (MAT.O) and Hasbro Inc HAS.N, was also helped by a 36 percent drop in operating expenses,

    Analysts were looking for earnings of 24 cents a share on revenue of $167.9 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan in New York; Additional reporting by Shradhha Sharma in Bangalore; Editing by John Wallace and Derek Caney)

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