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Bluebird shares down 37%

Bluebird Toys shares crashed by 37 per cent yesterday after the company said distribution problems and slowing sales in North America meant 1997 profits would disappoint. The Swindon-based toymaker said over- cautious inventory management in North America and a reluctance among some stores there to stock some products would push profits significantly below market expectations.'

"Trading conditions for world toy markets in the first few months of the year continue to be difficult,'' Bluebird said at its annual meeting. The shares, which reached a peak in 1995 of more than 350p, fell 63p to 106.5p.

The news came after a difficult year for Bluebird, which designs and sells miniature toys. Sluggish consumer demand for toys because of competition from computers and video games, coupled with problems of over-stocking of goods at the company, sent 1996 profits down 35 per cent.

Until yesterday's warning, analysts had forecasted 1997 profit at pounds 13m, up from pounds 11m before exceptional charges in 1996.