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Star Wars saves Hasbro’s 2020 sales with ‘Mandalorian’ toys

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Star Wars saves Hasbro’s 2020 sales with ‘Mandalorian’ toys

Move over Mr. Potato Head, here comes Baby Yoda.

Toy maker Hasbro reported a double-digit sales surge tied to its Star Wars merchandise last year, thanks to “The Mandalorian” series streaming on Disney+.

“Hasbro’s Star Wars revenue grew nearly 70 percent last year despite it being the first year without a theatrical release since 2014,” Hasbro chief executive and chairman, Brian Goldner said during an earnings call.

Hasbro also saw a surge in sales of traditional toys and games, like Monopoly and Operation, as parents looked for ways to entertain their kids during coronavirus lockdowns, the company said.

But the increase was mostly limited to the US and Canada, which weighed on its overall results and disappointed investors.

The stock ended down 4.25 percent to $93.15 a share.

In a research note, D.A. Davidson analyst Linda Bolton Weiser attributed the stock decline “entirely due to underperformance in international.” 

Demand for its signature toys abroad was weak, resulting in a total sales decline last year of 8 percent to $5.5 billion at a time when toys were flying off the shelves worldwide.

For the fourth quarter, Hasbro reported earnings of $105.2 million, down from $267.3 in 2019. After excluding items, Hasbro’s earnings per share of $1.27 still beat expectations for $1.14 per share. Revenue for the quarter rose, but only by 4 percent to $1.72 billion.

Hasbro attributed some of the weakness to “underdeveloped” e-commerce in regions like Latin America, adding that it had to mark down merchandise in both Latin America and Asia to move inventory.

Demand in Europe was flat, the company said, without elaborating. Sales in the US and Canada, by contrast, popped by 16 percent in the fourth quarter.

Board games like Magic: The Gathering and Monopoly each saw their best years ever in 2020, while class games like Jenga, Operation and Connect 4 had a “stellar” year, Goldner said.

But licensing revenue — or merchandise tied to movie releases — suffered overall as Hollywood largely refrained from new releases. In addition to Star wars, Hasbro has had licensing deals tied to Spider Man movies, Transformer movies and Power Rangers films.

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United Airlines to pay $49.5M to settle mail contract probe

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United Airlines to pay $49.5M to settle mail contract probe

United Airlines agreed to pay $49.5 million to resolve criminal charges and civil claims relating to fraud on Postal Service contracts for transportation of international mail, the US Justice Department said Friday.

“United defrauded the US Postal Service by providing falsified parcel delivery information over a period of years and accepting millions of dollars of payments to which the company was not entitled,” the Justice Department’s acting criminal division chief Nicholas L. McQuaid said.

United did not immediately comment.

The Justice Department said between 2012 and 2015, United defrauded the US Postal Service (USPS) by submitting false delivery scan data. The government said United submitted automated delivery scans based on aspirational delivery times. The government said some individuals at United sought “to hide the automation practices included efforts to revise the falsified delivery times to make the automated scans appear less suspicious to USPS.”

United agreed to strengthen its compliance program and to submit yearly reports to the Justice Department detailing the status of remediation and implementation of United’s compliance program and internal controls.

The government cited United’s prior history, including a 2016 non-prosecution agreement relating to potential criminal bribery violations arising out of United’s establishment and operation of a non-stop route between NJ’s Newark Liberty International Airport and Columbia Metropolitan Airport in South Carolina.

In 2019, American Airlines, paid $22.1 million to settle claims it falsely reported the times it transferred possession of US mail to foreign postal administrations or other intended recipients, the Justice Department said.

USPS contracted with American to take possession of receptacles of US mail at six locations and then deliver it to numerous international and domestic destinations. The settlement resolves claims American Airlines falsely reported the times it transferred possession of the mail. American did not immediately comment.

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Cinemark ‘confident’ in box office rebound despite Q4 loss

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Cinemark 'confident' in box office rebound despite Q4 loss

Cinema giant Cinemark said Friday it sees the light at the end of the tunnel even as it swung to a quarterly loss as the coronavirus pandemic crushed movie attendance.

In the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Cinemark posted a loss of $239 million, or $2.03 a diluted share compared with a year-ago profit of $23 million, or 22 cents a share. Revenue fell to $98 million from $789 million a year ago. Wall Street expected a loss of $1.46 a share on revenue of $80 million.

Chief executive Mark Zorandi noted that the results were severely hampered by the pandemic, which shuttered its theaters or reduced its seating capacity since the last year.

“It is almost unfathomable that one year ago, we were reporting Cinemark’s fifth consecutive year of record results with the North American industry touting the second-highest-grossing box office of all-time,” he said.

As of the fourth quarter, the Plano, Texas-based company had 217 domestic and 129 international movie theaters open, all operating at limited hours and capacity, and showing mostly older movies.

Still, the nation’s third-largest movie theater chain with 533 theaters — 331 of which are in the US —said it sees hope on the horizon as moviegoing rises in regions where the virus has been contained.

“We remain highly confident in the rebound of our industry once the virus is more contained, as evidenced by recent box office results in China, Japan and Australia,” the CEO said. “Cinemark was well-positioned heading into the crisis, and we have adapted and evolved the way we operate to navigate the current environment, and to ensure we remain successful and further solidify our leadership position as theatrical moviegoing resurges.”

In the US, the early success of the vaccine, which has lowered COVID cases, has also been a cause for celebration among movie theater owners. New York City, one of the most lucrative box office markets, will reopen movie theaters at limited capacity in March, after a yearlong hiatus.

Zorandi said his company is well-positioned to weather the storm with $655 million in cash.

“While COVID-19 has caused significant distress to our industry and our company, Cinemark has maintained discipline and consistency, while demonstrating relentless perseverance and agility,” he added.

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DirecTV to become standalone company through $16B AT&T, TPG deal

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DirecTV to become standalone company through $16B AT&T, TPG deal

Telecom giant AT&T has inked a deal with private equity firm TPG that calls for struggling satellite TV provider DirecTV to become a standalone company.

The deal calls for AT&T to sell a 30 percent stake in DirecTV, AT&T TV and its U-Verse to TPG in exchange for $1.8 billion in cash.

The transaction values the satellite TV properties at $16.25 billion — a fraction of the $48.5 billion AT&T shelled out for it in 2015 under former chief executive Randall Stephenson. 

But it paves the way for the telecom and media giant to focus on its growing businesses, including 5G wireless and streaming video service HBO Max, said CEO John Stankey in announcing the deal.

The companies will form a new venture, aptly called DirecTV, that will own and operate the pay video services.

AT&T will also receive $7.8 billion from the new venture after the spinoff is complete, including the assumption of $200 million in debt. It will use the money to pay off debts, it said.

The company under Stankey has been under the directive to focus on core-assets, such as the company’s wireless business, in order to reduce its $149 billion debt load and grow its new streaming service HBO Max.

AT&T put the declining DirecTV on the block last year, but didn’t like the early offers, which came in at more than $15 billion, as The Post reported in December.

DirecTV has been pummeled by cord-cutting, bleeding subscribers and booking a $15.5 billion charge in AT&T’s fourth quarter earnings report last month.

In recent months, AT&T had focused on a divestiture of its stake to private equity groups to avoid regulatory concerns. 

AT&T said Thursday that by keeping a majority stake, DirecTV can still leverage its distribution reach. The telecom giant offered that the new DirecTV “will have a commercial agreement with AT&T to continue to offer bundled pay-TV service for AT&T’s wireless and internet customers. Additionally, AT&T and new DirecTV will have commercial agreements in place that will give new DirecTV video subscribers continued access to HBO Max.”

“This agreement aligns with our investment and operational focus on connectivity and content, and the strategic businesses that are key to growing our customer relationships across 5G wireless, fiber and HBO Max,” Stankey said.

He added: “TPG is the right partner for this transaction and creating a new entity is the right way to structure and manage the video business for optimum value creation.”

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