Bluebird flies into record profits

BY JAMES BETHELL

Sales of a tiny plastic doll and a collection of gruesome monsters helped drive profits at Bluebird Toys to a record high, according to Torquil Norman, chairman.

The results, slightly ahead of expectations, will fuel speculation that the Wiltshire toy company could be the subject of a bid by a US or Japanese games giant such as Mattel or Hasbro.

Pre-tax profits doubled to £19.7m on turnover of £99.4m, up 44 per cent from £68.9m in 1993.

The growth was achieved thanks mainly to the popularity among girls of the Polly In My Pocket range of palm-sized toys launched three years ago. It has been expanded to include a Tiny World range and, from May, a new range called Mimi and the Goo Goos.

Mighty Max, the boys' range of fighting monsters, continued to increase sales - but there was increasing pressure from Mighty Morfin Power Rangers, the toy that proved a big-seller last Christmas .

The profits increase was achieved despite a flat retail climate in Britain and the exhaustion last year of tax credits relating to past losses. Mr Norman said the progress made by the Peter Pan subsidiary, which sells mainstream models and kits, and the imminent launch of Mimi inspired confidence in trading in 1995.

"However, we are not looking for fireworks," he added.

The burgeoning cash mountain has led the company to seek shareholder permission at the forthcoming annual meeting to buy back shares.

Analysts in the City said the figures suggested a quiet year for profits growth in 1995 and the development of new ranges to take the company forward in 1995. "They need to find new products or develop Mighty Max if they want to avoid becoming a one-product company," warned Ian Berry, of Beeson Gregory, the stockbrokers.

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