Bob the Builder fails to fix it for HIT

Bob the Builder is no longer fixing it for HIT Entertainment, the media company which yesterday announced that sales of the handyman toy and video character fell 29 per cent in the six months to 31 January

It announced that group pre-tax profits had fallen from £21.5m to £14.6m

HIT said the slump in Bob's fortunes was down to very strong US Christmas sales in the equivalent period in 2002 that had made for tough comparisons this year.

However, the company also said the fall in sales was down to the company's decision to change its key toy partner, meaning that there was less product available to retailers during the important Christmas trading period in 2003.

Another important brand, Barney the Dinosaur, also witnessed a fall in revenues of 7 per cent. Again the company blamed a particularly strong 2002 Christmas for the weak comparison this year. Together the two characters account for 44 per cent of HIT's total revenue.

The company reported that overall sales were down from £96.2m to £92.8m. Allowing for exceptional items and goodwill amortisation, underlying profits at the group fell from £25.5m before tax to £24m. HIT said its figures had also been hit by the weak dollar.

One piece of good news was the performance of Thomas the Tank Engine. The Thomas and Friends franchise accounts for 15 per cent of the company's revenue and the group of steam train characters saw a 23 per cent increase in worldwide revenues. In the UK the company has expanded the characters into new retailers such as Marks & Spencer, Mothercare and Next.

The company also publishes the Guinness World Records books, which saw a 4 per cent increase over the crucial Christmas trading period. The titles now account for 15 per cent of group turnover.

Rob Lawes, the chief executive of HIT, said: "Current trading is in line with our forecasts and we are confident of achieving management expectations for the full year. HIT is now firmly established as a world leader in young children's entertainment with a diversified portfolio of some of the most popular global brands."

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