Nelvana near nirvana with deal, financials

Company scores coup with 'Cardcaptor'

TORONTO — Animation company Nelvana was sowing and reaping Thursday, with the multimillion-dollar purchase of rights to a Japanese animation series and quarterly financials boosted by recent strategies and divisions.

Nelvana picked up North American TV distribution and merchandise licensing rights to “Cardcaptor,” a Japanese animation series aimed at girls ages 6 to 11, for a sum that was disclosed only as being in the multimillion-dollar range.

“This is a multifaceted project that I think will fulfill the same function for girls as ‘Pokemon’ does for boys,” said Michael Hirsh, Nelvana’s co-CEO. “The world’s been looking for a good action show for girls.”

Produced & in prod’n

Thirty-five episodes of the half-hour series — airing on Japan’s public TV network, NHK — have been produced, and another 35 are in production. “Cardcaptor” is produced by Kodansha, a book and multimedia publisher in Japan.

“We’re shopping it both to toy companies and to broadcasters,” Hirsh said, “looking for the best home to build the brand.”

Quarter was good

For the quarter ended June 30, 1999, Nelvana reported net earnings of C$1.44 million ($966,000) or 13¢ per share, up 13% from a year ago. Revenue for the quarter increased 46% to $9.0 million.

Analyst Adam Shine at CIBC Wood Gundy in Montreal noted that the numbers were in line with expectations, adding that the company was helped along by a $1.7 million infusion from its publishing operations, which didn’t exist last year, plus an increase of $872,000 in library revenues.

“What we’re seeing,” Hirsh said, “is the building of nonproduction and distribution revenue, which is a plan that the company is pursuing that is working. Our plan is to grow merchandise revenue over the next few years aggressively.”

Revenue for the year to date was $16.7 million or 21.5¢ per share, up 55% from the first six months of 1998, and net income for the six months was $1.5 million, up 16%.

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