Marvel rise is in the cards

An expanding array of products enabled comic-book publisher Marvel Entertainment Group Inc. to post super operating results for its second quarter ended June 30.

Net income soared 104% to $ 14.7 million, or 29 cents per share, from $ 7.2 million (15 cents) in the year-ago quarter. Net revenues leapt 160% to $ 95.9 million for the Spiderman comic strip creator.

For the six months ended June 30, net income increased 101% to $ 24.6 million (49 cents), compared with $ 12.2 mil (25 cents) in the year-earlier period. Net revenues shot up 189% to $ 195.7.

President Terry Stewart said net revenues increased due to the company’s expanding entertainment products. Results for 1993 include trading card company Fleer Corp., which was acquired Sept. 1, 1992 — and which added $ 47.7 million in net revenues for the quarter and $ 107.4 for six months — and a 46% equity interest in toy manufacturer Toy Biz Inc., which was acquired April 30.

Stewart cited a record second-quarter performance by its publishing arm and 30% growth in advertising net revenues in the quarter and six-month period, compared with those periods last year. Toy Biz, driven by the growing popularity of Marvel X-Men action figure toys, contributed $ 1.1 million in net income since its acquisition April 30.

Wall Street was pleased with the results. S.G. Warburg analyst Lisbeth Barron said Marvel bettered her earnings estimate of 26 cents per share for the quarter.

“The operating margin was very strong in the quarter, around 32%,” Barron said. “We had been looking for about 28%.” Barron expects Marvel to exceed her $ 1.05 earning-per-share estimate for 1993 and says the company should be on track for earnings of $ 1.35 per share or more in 1994.

The buzz on Wall Street is that owner Ronald Perelman has big plans for Marvel. Some believe that through selective acquisitions and leveraging of its highly popular comic book superheroes, Perelman will expand Marvel into a multifaceted entertainment conglomerate.

Marvel’s animated X-Men is already a hit on Fox, and a handful of its characters — including Spiderman, Doctor Strange and Black Panther — are the subjects of motion pictures in development.

Marvel’s stock has reflected such speculation. Since completing a tender offer of $ 30 a share May 7 that gave Perelman roughly 80% of the company, Marvel’s stock has headed skyward. It reached a 52-week high of $ 39.375 July 27 ; profit-taking Wednesday caused the stock to drop 3/8 to close at 38.

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