Superhero worship at Wall Street

Marvel results ride high on Hollywood ties

Marvel Enterprises posted another buoyant quarter Monday fired up by Hollywood’s continuing love affair with comic book heroes.

Shares jumped 8.3% to $19.82, a new 52-week high, as the company swung to a net income of $42 million in the first three months of the year — beating Wall Street estimates and reversing a $3.8 million loss the year before. Revenue jumped to $87 million from $57 million. The strong numbers followed a huge opening weekend for 20th Century Fox’s “X2: X-Men United,” which topped $155 million worldwide.

Marvel cited strong sales of licensed products including substantial guaranteed royalty payments from an expanded videogame license agreement for the X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Iron Man characters.

Earlier this month, Marvel signed a global licensing program with Universal Studios Consumer Products for the upcoming June release of “The Hulk.” Marvel unusually splits licensing and merchandising revenue with the studios following different formulas, and not always amicably. The company is in the midst of a legal battle with Sony Pictures, which released “Spider-Man” a year ago. Marvel has accused Sony of trying to preempt the Spidey brand.

Separately, the company said certain officers and directors plan to sell about 3 million of their 8 million shares and options. The officers and directors view their option holdings as “an integral component of their retirement savings and accordingly, are moving to diversify their holdings,” the company said.

On the heels of a strong quarter, Marvel expects full-year sales of $225 million-$230 million.

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