Barney helps HIT's profits to leap

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The Independent Online

Hit Entertainment, the children's character group, saw its turnover jump nearly fourfold after last year's acquisition of Barney the Dinosaur saw US sales dominate its performance.

Reporting interim results, the company, best known in the UK for Bob the Builder, added that current trading was ahead of expectations. Its shares closed up 7 per cent at 370p on the back of upgrades to analysts' full-year profit forecasts.

HIT saw turnover jump 366 per cent to £58.9m, for the six months to 31 January, while the proportion of US sales grew from 11 per cent to 75 per cent. Pre-tax profit, before goodwill, was up 398 per cent at £15.2m.

"The key driver is the successful integration of Lyrick [the US company that owned Barney]. It has been strategically fantastic and has been a beachhead for the US," said Rob Lawes, the chief executive.

HIT used the Lyrick video distribution infrastructure and relationships with US retailers to take Bob the Builder and its other characters to America. The company also bought Pingu the Penguin last year. Mr Lawes said HIT still wanted to acquire another couple of major characters over the next three or four years but he ruled out acquiring The Muppets.