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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 March, 2005, 11:28 GMT
Buyout speculation surrounds Hit
Bob the Builder
HIT's solid profit foundations have been a little shaky in past quarters
The future of Hit Entertainment, the owner of children's favourites Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine, is the subject of speculation once again.

Shares of Hit surged 17% on Friday to close at 293 pence, prompting the firm to announce that it was in the late stages of talks with a potential buyer.

Press reports on Sunday claimed that investment firm Apax had tabled a bid for Hit worth about 475m.

Takeover rumours have been circling Hit as its profits and shares have dipped.

Can we fix it?

Hit, which is due to report earnings on Monday, was not available for immediate comment.

Apax declined to comment when contacted by BBC News. According to the Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Times, private equity firm Apax has won the support of key Hit shareholders for its all cash offer.

Hit's share price has declined amid difficult trading conditions, making it an attractive takeover target.

The company, which also owns the rights to Barney, a purple dinosaur who is a TV star in the US, has seen profits dented by the weakening dollar.

Sluggish consumer demand on both sides of the Atlantic and retailers negotiating harder for lower prices also have taken their toll, analysts said.

Hit sells Bob The Builder products in more than 130 countries. It got the rights to Thomas the Tank Engine following its acquisition of Gullane Entertainment in 2002.

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05 Jul 02 |  Business

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