Strong International Demand Pushes Mattel Profit Up

Mattel, the world's largest toy company, posted a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit Thursday, helped by stronger international demand for its Hot Wheels cars and Fisher Price line.

The maker of Barbie dolls and T.M.X Elmo said earnings rose to $328.5 million, or 89 cents a share, from $286.4 million, or 75 cents a share, a year earlier.

Sales climbed 4 percent to $2.19 billion.

Analysts, on average, were expecting Mattel to earn 73 cents a share on sales of $2.13 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

The fourth quarter is the most important time of year for toy companies because it encompasses the holiday shopping season. The toy industry rings up nearly half its annual sales during that period, according to market research firm NPD Group.

Mattel said its fourth-quarter results included charges and costs of about $42 million stemming from a spate of recalls last year. The company recalled millions of Chinese-made toys, many because of excessive levels of lead paint.

"Considering the challenges we faced in 2007, the business performed fairly well, including strong performances from our international business as well as core Fisher Price," Chief Executive Robert Eckert said in a statement.