$400 mil of red ink, Marvel tells court

NEW YORK – Marvel Entertainment Group on Monday told a U.S. Bankruptcy Court it expects to report net losses of more than $400 million for the fourth quarter and the entire 1996 frame.

In a filing made in connection with its Chapter 11 proceeding, Marvel confirmed earlier projections that a collapse of its core trading-card business and a series of corporate restructurings fueled by it have left the company in deep financial trouble.

Based on preliminary, unaudited results, Marvel said it expects to report a loss of $405 million to $440 million for the fourth quarter, and when the entire year’s results are added in, a loss of $435 million to $470 million.

The huge loss – which compares with a $48.4 million loss in 1995 and a $58.5 million loss in that year’s fourth quarter – stems partly from a non-cash charge against earnings in the final quarter of 1996 that will total $350 million to $385 million. That charge covers a reduction of goodwill, writeoff of deferred tax assets and restructuring costs, including a series of staff reductions that most recently felled a third of the comics division’s 450 employees. But the company said results for the year are “lower than originally anticipated” as its business continues to soften.

Marvel, losing money in several successive quarters dating back to mid-1995, has been buffeted by sharp downturns in its trading-card and comics businesses, and controlling shareholder Ronald Perelman is in the midst of a bid to rescue the company by buying newly issued shares to be used to acquire Toy Biz, a minority-owned affiliate, and fold it into Marvel.

Bondholders led by rival financier Carl Icahn have resisted the effort, and Marvel filed for Chapter 11 protection to claim secure new financing and place the ultimate decision on its restructuring into a judge’s hands.

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