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    Funtastic rakes in the play money
    January 13 2003
    By Eli Greenblat

    With record demand for Funtastic's toys it is no wonder managing director David Hendy is smiling.

    Toy company Funtastic is tipped to unveil a profit upgrade after a bumper pre-Christmas trading period and better than expected sales during the second half of 2002 fuelled record demand.

    Funtastic's toys based around the Spider-Man and The Lord of The Rings movies were among the biggest-selling products in the eight weeks leading up to Christmas, according to market research group Inform.

    Inform data also revealed that Funtastic's television-enabled karaoke toy, VJ Karaoke, was the biggest seller for the holidays with more than $2 million worth sold in December.

    Funtastic's recent merger with JNH Australia has added extra earnings firepower, with the privately owned toy group holding licences to some of the year's other biggest sellers such as Barbie and Bratz dolls.

    Following the $30 million merger with JNH in October, Funtastic managing director David Hendy said the combined group would record revenue of $122.1 million for the 12 months to December 2002, and produce a net profit of $7.16 million.

    Analysts now believe Funtastic will surprise the market with a full-year profit of at least $7.75 million for 2002, and the forecast 2003 result of $7.7 million is also expected to be revised upwards to at least $8.2 million.

    The earnings revision should provide further upward pressure to the Funtastic share price, which is up 10 per cent this month and 38 per cent higher since October.

    Funtastic shares ended last week four cents higher at $1.10, a record closing high.

    A major driving force behind the swollen 2002 result is a more upbeat performance from the Funtastic business before it merged with JNH.

    Internal company documents predict earnings for Funtastic (pre-merger) will jump to $5 million for 2002, up 25 per cent on the previous forecast of an after-tax profit of only $4 million.

    Merger documents tipped JNH to contribute at least $2.5 million in profit for 2002. Even though the merger was announced in October, Funtastic's accounts will include JNH's figures from July 1, 2002.

    Funtastic's previous forecast of $161.82 million in sales and a net profit of $7.7 for the 2003 calendar year will be scrapped in favour of more bullish figures, as management has been able to strip out more cost savings from the JNH merger than first anticipated.

    It is believed Funtastic could have understated the merger savings by as much as $1.5 million a year, with some analysts now predicting management will slash costs by $2.5 million a year over three years.

    In the year ahead toy industry experts are also excited about the June release of toys based on the upcoming Incredible Hulk movie, a new series of Ninja Turtles products in August and a bigger range of Bratz dolls.

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