Lego says will focus more on fast-growing Asian markets

COPENHAGEN, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Danish toy maker Lego said it planned to focus more on Asia after the continent proved to be the fastest-growing region for sales in the first half.

Lego, the world’s No. 2 player in the toy market by sales after Barbie maker Mattel from the United States, increased sales by 13 percent in the first six months of 2013.

Sales growth in Asia was 35 percent - far ahead of the 4 percent rises in both North America, its biggest market, and Latin America, and the 8 percent increase in Europe

“Asia has not been a major focus for us as a company up until this point, but we see now with the emerging middle class, more and more consumers that are really interested in our ... products,” Chief Financial Officer John Goodwin said in an interview with Reuters Insider.

It said the launch of its animal-themed Chima range launched this year had contributed strongly to the sales increase.

“The theme has performed particularly well in Asia, where it has been a large contributor to the high growth,” chief marketing officer Mads Nipper said in a statement.

The company said earlier this year it planned to build its first factory in China next year.

The company is unlisted and did not specify revenue figures for each region and did not break regions down into smaller areas.

Sales rose to 10.36 billion Danish crowns ($1.83 billion) from 9.13 billion in the first half, compared with the same period last year.

Mattel’s sales were up 3.7 percent - year-on-year - to $2.16 billion dollars in the first half of 2013, while the United States’ Hasbro - the world’s No. 3 toy maker - reported a fall in sales of 2.1 percent to $1.43 billion.

Lego’s operating profit for the first half was up 11 percent to 3.2 billion Danish crowns compared with 2.88 billion a year earlier.

Net profit for first half of 2013 was up 18 percent to 2.39 billion Danish crowns, from 2.02 billion.

Watch the full Reuters digital TV interview with the Lego CFO