'Bob the Builder' boosts HIT profit

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The Independent Online

Hit Entertainment, the world's third-biggest maker of children's television shows, including Bob the Builder, yesterday said it intended to remain an independent company despite several offers.

Hit Entertainment, the world's third-biggest maker of children's television shows, including Bob the Builder, yesterday said it intended to remain an independent company despite several offers.

''We like our independence and intend to keep it,'' said HIT's chief executive Peter Orton. He did not provide details of companies who have expressed interest in a purchase but ruled out US companies Time Warner and Walt Disney. Analysts say one likely interested buyer is RTL Group, Europe's biggest TV and radio broadcaster jointly owned by Pearson, and Granada Media.

HIT yesterday announced full-year profits up 60 per cent, boosted by UK sales of Bob the Builder toys and videos. Pre-tax profit in the 12 months to 31 July 2000 rose to £5m, from £3.2m. Revenue rose 32 per cent to £20.3m. HIT's shares closed up 15p, to 450p yesterday. The company has been seeking to leverage the international success of itsshows, which also include Angelina Ballerina and Kipper, by selling toys, videos and shirts. Merchandise sales surged to 43 per cent, up from 11 per cent.

''They've really only scratched the surface,'' in terms of exploiting their global franchises, said David Grimbley, analyst at UBS Warburg. He has upgraded his forecast for full-year profits in 2001 to £7m, from £5.6m.

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