PEMBROKE:Predators circle Bluebird

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The Independent Online
Booming Christmas sales at Bluebird have fuelled speculation that the toy company will be snapped up by its close business associate, Mattel, the acquisitive, cash-rich toy giant.

The logic is compelling. Mattel owns the worldwide distribution rights to Bluebird's best-selling brands, Polly Pocket and Mighty Max, and regularly adds to its global portfolio of toys with the purchase of regional companies with mature products.

Bluebird has achieved excellent growth, with pre-tax losses of £3.5m in 1991 turning to forecast profits of £19m in 1994. Shares increased in three years from 8p to 230p yesterday.

However, the risks of wasting shareholder resources trying to develop another star product are high, industry experts say.

At Mattel executives must fear that Chris Burgin, Bluebird's chief executive, will grow closer to Hasbro, Mattel's arch-rival and his former employer.

Meanwhile, Bluebird-watchers say the signs are ominous. The temptation to sell at the top is great for Torquil Norman, 62, the six-foot, five-inch founder and chairman, who loves playing with his antique aircraft at his private airfield in Gloucestershire.

Following the battles over Waddington and Spears, a fight is possible, in which case Bluebird will gain useful advice from its newly appointed merchant bank, S.G. Warburg.

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