American Girl helps Mattel 3Q results top view

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Strong sales of American Girl dolls and Fisher-Price toys helped boost Mattel's third-quarter results, setting the stage for the biggest U.S. toy maker ahead of the critical holiday season.

The results topped Wall Street expectations and sent its shares 4 percent higher in premarket trading. They also indicate how the company is likely to perform during the last three months of the year, when toy makers can earn up to 40 percent of its annual revenue.

This year, retailers including Wal-Mart, Kmart and Toys R Us have beefed up layaway and reservation services to encourage shoppers to buy toys early in the season.

Mattel said its net income was $365.9 million, or $1.04 per share, for the period ended Sept. 30. That's up from $300.8 million, or 86 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts expected 99 cents per share, according to a poll by FactSet.

Revenue for the El Segundo, Calif.-based company rose 4 percent to $2.08 billion, topping Wall Street's estimate of $2.07 billion.

Fisher Price sales increased 6 percent, while American Girl rose 16 percent. Sales of Hot Wheels were flat, while Barbie declined 4 percent. Mattel reported strong sales of Monster High products, while sales of games tied to the "Cars 2" movie fell.

Sales climbed in North America and abroad, with international results pressured by foreign currency exchange rates.

Cost controls also helped boost gross profit, which improved to 53.7 percent, from 47.8 percent a year ago. Gross profit measures profit after the cost of sales.

Smaller rival Hasbro Inc., which makes Monopoly, Nerf and My Little Pony, reports its results on Monday.

Mattel Inc. also announced Tuesday that its board declared a fourth-quarter dividend of 31 cents per share. The dividend will be paid Dec. 14 to shareholders of record on Nov. 28.

Its shares rose $1.47, or 4.2 percent, to $36.89 in premarket trading. If that holds in regular trading, it would top Mattel's 52-week high of $36.25 set on Sept. 18.