Barbie eyes up Action Man in Toytown battle - News - The Independent

Barbie eyes up Action Man in Toytown battle

Takeover bid: Best-selling brands are the prize as US giants fight for control of pounds 45bn market

NIGEL COPE

Toytown was pitched into a billion-dollar takeover conflict yesterday when Barbie, the undisputed queen of the doll market, was sent into battle with Action Man.

The lines were drawn when Barbie's parent company, Mattel-Fisher Price, launched a hostile $5.2bn (pounds 3.45bn) offer for the rival toy group, Hasbro, whose portfolio includes Action Man as well as Barbie's arch rival Sindy, GI Joe and the re-launched Cabbage Patch dolls.

Hasbro has rejected the offer, but if successful it would create the world's largest toy company, with sales of more than $7bn and a sizeable share of the world's pounds 45bn toy market.

It could get nasty. Barbie, the pneumatic blonde whose latest incarnation was a Baywatch beauty, has been top of the toy tree since her debut in 1959. But Sindy, which sells well in the UK but is not available in the US, is certain to put up a fight.

Jon Salisbury, editor of the trade magazine World Toy News, said: "It's all about brands. Mattel is strong in pre-school toys with its Fisher Price range and with the Barbie doll, but it has not had a big boy's toy since Masters of the Universe in 1985. That is Hasbro's strength with Action Man, GI Joe and Tonka toys. This bid was inevitable at some time."

Mattel says it wants to merge with Hasbro because the two have complementary products which when put together would create a stronger group capable of more consistent growth and greater economies of scale. It says it would be able to generate pounds 100m of cost savings in the first year alone.

Toy companies have long struggled to maintain consistent growth in a market dominated by crazes that are often linked to hit films and television shows such as Jurassic Park, Thunderbirds and Batman. A hit generates millions. Expensive flops can cripple smaller companies. The toy industry has seen a spate of takeovers in the last few years. Hasbro bought Waddingtons, makers of Monopoly. Mattel has acquired Fisher Price and JW Spear, makers of Scrabble since 1993.

Analysts in New York said Hasbro's assets had been under-managed. "We believe that some of Hasbro's evergreen brands could flourish much more under Mattel's skilled nurturing and marketing savvy," one said.

But the deal could run into problems, such as difficulties on monopoly grounds as the two are already the largest companies in the sector. Mattel and Hasbro combined would have a 30 per cent share of the $13bn-a-year US toy market and 25 per cent of the UK's pounds 1.6bn market. Mattel hopes to avoid such problems, possibly by selling parts of Hasbro.

Another potential stumbling block is the contrasting culture of the two companies. Mattel was founded in 1945, is based in Los Angeles and regarded as an aggressive company which focuses strongly on profits. Hasbro was founded in the 1920s, is based in Rhode Island, and the founding Hassenfeld company still controls a large stake. It is known as a paternal employer that donates large sums to charity.

Hasbro performed strongly in the 1980s but has under-performed recently. It had a hit with Jurassic Park in 1993 but failed to follow it up last year. In recent meetings the company's chairman, Alan Hassenfeld, has admitted that the company needed to be more aggressive.

Meanwhile Mattel's fortunes have blossomed, fuelled by Barbie sales, which now account for $1bn of the group's pounds 3.65bn yearly sale, and the takeover of Fisher Price in 1993.

Analysts say that a white knight could yet rescue Hasbro. Disney has been mentioned as one possibility. Others say that even if the bid fails, Mattel may have weakened Hasbro sufficiently to force a break-up.

But one thing is certain. With the UK toy fair due to start in London tomorrow and the world equivalent scheduled for the US next month, this bid will be the talk of Toytown.

How the toy giants measure up

Hasbro

Key brands: Sindy, Action Man, Tonka, Waddington (Monopoly), GI Joe, My Little Pony, Playskool.

Sales (1995): $2.86bn (pounds 1.9bn).

Profits: $175m (pounds 115m).

Founded: 1923.

Head office: Rhode Island.

Culture: Still partly owned by founding Hasselfeld family. Paternal and caring. Helps charities.

Mattel

Key brands: Barbie, Scrabble, Cabbage Patch dolls, Hot Wheels.

Sales (1995): $3.65bn (pounds 2.4bn).

Profits: $370m (pounds 244m).

Founded: 1945.

Head office: Los Angeles.

Culture: West Coast style, with an aggressive go-getting management. It is focused on profits above all else.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Test Manager

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week