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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 13:24 GMT
Pingu sold for 16m
Pingu
Pingu: Off to pastures new
Britain's Hit Entertainment has snapped up a new money-making asset in the form of Pingu the Penguin.

The chirpy television character can now expect to be thrust into the limelight, alongside Hit's more high-profile characters Bob the Builder and Barney the Dinosaur.

Chief executive Rob Lawes said the penguin has been "totally under-exploited," and is eying a wide range of growth opportunities.

The news of the acquisition comes as the entertainment group posted a 53% rise in profits to 7.5m in the year to the end to July.

Unseen footage

"By the time we have put Pingu through our infrastructure we believe it will be substantially more valuable than the 15.9m we paid," said Mr Lawes.

Bob the Builder
Bob: Waving hello to his new family member
Due to previously fragmented rights, Pingu has so far only received significant exposure in Japan and the UK, but generates $4m in annual revenues nevertheless.

The acquisition gives Hit ownership of all rights to the character, including 104 five minute episodes, half of which have yet to be shown.

The group is targeting the US market in particular, saying that research showed the penguin could be equally appealing on the other side of the Atlantic.

Bob the Builder took to the US airwaves in January of last year and is "flying off the shelves," according to Mr Lawes.

Cool reception from investors

Hit entertainment has been on an aggressive buying spree this year, scooping up Barney the dinosaur for 190m in February.

Barney the dinosaur
Barney: Twelve times the price of Pingu
And the firm is upbeat about its prospects, despite the economic downturn.

"You are not going to see three-year-olds not having a Barney video because of 11 September. As far as parents are concerned, they may not take holidays but they will still buy a video for their children," said Mr Lawes.

Turnover at the group more than doubled to 52.3m from 20.7m the previous year.

But investors were sceptical about the cost of the penguin, and shares in Hit fell to 327.5p from 346p during morning trade.

See also:

26 Oct 01 | Business
Top ten toys for Christmas
22 Oct 01 | New Media
Millionaire and Link top toy charts
09 Oct 01 | Business
Toys R Us warns on losses
09 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Bob buys Barney for 190m
07 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Sir Elton rocks with Bob the Builder
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