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Hasbro nearly triples profits during first quarter

NEW YORK — Toymaker Hasbro’s first-quarter profit nearly tripled on rising revenue in all major product categories and a tax benefit.

The maker of Transformers and Nerf toys also said today that it is starting a $625 million share buyback program.

Shares rose 5 percent in pre-market trading.

Profit climbed to $58.9 million, or 40 cents per share, in the three months ended March 28. That’s up from $19.7 million, or 14 cents per share a year ago.

Excluding a tax adjustment, net income totaled 26 cents per share. Analysts expected a smaller profit of 16 cents per share excluding one-time items. Analyst estimates typically exclude one-time items.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $672.4 million. That tops analyst forecasts of revenue of $642.7 million.

Toys sales have shown strength as the economy recovers. Mattel Inc., Hasbro’s chief rival, reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Friday.

CEO Brian Goldner said the year began with "positive consumer spending trends."

He added that in the second quarter, results might be weaker because a year ago, shipments of toys tied to "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" were in stores.

However, he said that the company expects higher profit and revenue for the full year 2010.

Revenue from boys’ toys rose 3 percent to $236.9 million. Games and puzzles revenue rose 7 percent to $227 million.

Girls’ toys revenue rose 16 percent to $129.4 million, and preschool toys grew 18 percent to $78.9 million.

U.S. and Canada revenue rose 5 percent to $424.7 million, while international revenue rose 17 percent to $221.7 million.

Traditional toy makers face tough competition as children increasingly reach for electronics such as the iPod and video games for entertainment. Hasbro, based in Pawtucket, R.I., has countered that by developing electronic versions of its classic games such as Scrabble and Monopoly.

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