Has Lara Croft at last passed her sell-by date?

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The Independent Online
Eidos, the computer software group, is relying on the success of the long-awaited sequel to its best-selling game, Tomb Raider, to dig itself out of financial trouble after announcing a pounds 18.3m loss yesterday for the six months to September.

Tomb Raider II, starring the wild child fictional character Lara Croft, was released in the UK yesterday, following its launch in the US last week. It already appears to be beating sales expectations.

HMV and the Electronics Boutique in London opened their doors at midnight on Thursday to meet demand for the product: "This is going to be the Christmas number one. We've already sold 200 this morning. The queues for this are unbelievable," said Michael Young, an assistant at Oxford Street's Electronics Boutique.

Eidos' shares fell 25p to 655p yesterday after "extremely disappointing" sales of two other computer games and a rise in losses from pounds 12.5m last half. However, the group said it had orders for 1.5 million Tomb Raider II units world-wide. Analysts were yesterday expecting Tomb II sales in the first year to beat the original Tomb Raider's 2.5 million units and predicted the group would make pounds 9m profit in the full year.

Asked if Lara, like the Spice Girls, might be nearing her sell-by date, Charles Cornwall, Eidos's chief executive replied stiffly: "Lara can't be talked about in the same sentence as the Spice Girls. She's a a hip Indiana Jane."

Meanwhile, Hornby, a rather more traditional toy company, is struggling to steam into the modern age. The maker of model railways and Scalextric racing cars said yesterday the strong pound had put the brakes on half- year profits, which fell from pounds 1.1m to pounds 973,000, but concentrating on the two core products would reap future benefits.

Peter Newey, chairman, said it was too early to say how Christmas trading was going.