Trocadero toys with idea of Noddy spin-off oveyr 2

Noddy & Big Ears could find themselves spun off into a separate publicly quoted company under plans being considered by Trocadero, the property and leisure group which owns the rights to the characters, writes Nigel Cope.

Trocadero, run by Nigel Wray and Nick Leslau, says it would consider floating the Enid Blyton portfolio as it develops a broader range of popular children's characters. The company would include Enid Blyton's top works such as The Famous Five and the Secret Seven books as well as the Toytown series.

Trocadero paid pounds 14m for the Enid Blyton portfolio in January last year but has already doubled the division's sales and profits as it markets the brands more aggressively in the UK and the US.

In addition to exploiting the merchandising opportunities provided by Noddy and Big Ears, Trocadero hopes to develop other Toytown characters such as Mr Plod the policeman so they can have books and storylines of their own. Mr Leslau said: "The Blyton portfolio has 56 different characters and we are very interested in other intellectual property. We've looked at Sooty and Paddington Bear but nothing has caught our eye."

Since acquiring Enid Blyton, the company has renegotiated contracts and has reached an agreement with the BBC giving Trocadero full control over Noddy merchandise and publishing.

The plans were unveiled as Trocadero announced its 1996 results, which showed the group's net assets per share had soared from 7.1p to 20.1p. This excludes any valuation of the Enid Blyton catalogue. Gearing has been halved to 87 per cent and group turnover increased by 19 per cent to pounds 10.7m.

The upbeat message was overshadowed by a disappointing performance from Segaworld, the interactive games centre based at the Trocadero in central London.