Bluebird going to Mattell

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BLUEBIRD Toys looks poised to fall into US hands after a new 116.5p per share offer from Mattel which values the UK company at pounds 48.5m and trumps a rival bid from Guiness Peat Group.

Mattel's latest offer represents a 27 per cent premium to Bluebird's share price the day before a hostile bid arrived from GPG, the investment group chaired by Sir Ron Brierley. The Bluebird share price rose 2p to 116p yesterday.

Mattel's final cash offer followed an increased bid from GPG of 116p last Thursday which was declared final and came without the right to raise its offer.

By the end of last week, Mattel had acceptances representing 26.9 per cent of Bluebird's share capital while GPG holds 23 per cent. Mattel said it expected CPG would lapse its offer "at the earliest possible opportunity."

Mattel recently increased its interests in Britain by buying the rights to the board game Scrabble, outside North America through JW Spear. Mattel already owns most of the distribution rights on Bluebird's Polly Pocket miniature dolls.

Bluebird has been hampered in its attempt to remain independent by admitting its 1997 financial results were "clearly disappointing". Pre-tax profits fell from pounds 9.93m to pounds 6.21m while turnover dropped from pounds 67.7m top pounds 58.6m.

In the past Bluebird and Mattel have not always worked so well together. In May Chris Burgin the Bluebird chief executive, partly blamed US distribution where Mattel plays a role, for its profit warning.