Barbie, Hot Wheels power Mattel's holiday-quarter sales beat

(Reuters) - Mattel Inc beat quarterly sales estimates on Tuesday as parents splurged on Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars for their children during a holiday season that was dulled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The toymaker’s shares, which gained over 32% in the last year, rose 2% in extended trading.

Mattel has seen a surge in sales since the latter half of 2020 as the easing of coronavirus-led curbs drove toy stores to restock their shelves and cater to young families dealing with canceled vacations and a dearth of social events.

That jump in sales may be hard to repeat in 2021, Mattel Chief Executive Officer Ynon Kreiz said.

“We do expect to deliver strong sales growth in the first half (of 2021) compared to last year, but it will probably be more challenging in terms of comparison in the second half,” Kreiz told Reuters in an interview.

Mattel forecast currency-neutral net sales to rise by a mid-single-digit percentage in 2021, compared with a 3% increase in 2020. Analysts expect a 4.6% rise in sales this year, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The toymaker said worldwide gross billings for Barbie, Mattel’s biggest brand, rose 19% in the fourth quarter, while Hot Wheels billings rose 13%. Gross billings excludes sales adjustments such as trade discounts.

Mattel’s overall net sales rose about 10% to $1.63 billion for the fourth quarter, beating analysts’ estimates of $1.58 billion.

Rival Hasbro Inc reported a 3.6% increase in comparable holiday quarter revenue on Monday.

Mattel reported adjusted earnings of 40 cents per share, beating estimates of 23 cents per share.

The company also announced a new cost-cutting program, aimed at saving about $250 million in costs by 2023. Mattel said it expects to spend between $100 million to $125 million to implement it.

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva