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Mattel reports gains in fourth quarter, helped by Barbie

Mattel Inc. might finally be seeing a turnaround as it reported higher profit and revenue in the fourth quarter, helped by increased sales for Barbie and several other key brands.

"Overall, we're very encouraged," said Mattel Chief Executive Christopher Sinclair in a conference call with analysts and investors. "We achieved our goal of stabilizing the business."

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For the three months ended Dec. 31, the El Segundo toy company posted net income of $215.2 million, a 44% increase from the $149.9 million during the same period a year earlier. On a per-share basis, Mattel earned 63 cents compared with 44 cents.

Worldwide sales came in at nearly $2 billion, essentially unchanged from the year-earlier quarter, but up 7% when adjusted for currency fluctuation.

Worldwide sales of Barbie increased 8%, Fisher-Price Brands rose 13%, and Hot Wheels and Matchbox brands were up 26%. Sales of American Girl brand products were down 14%.

But the fourth-quarter increase couldn't make up for slower sales during the rest of the year. For the 2015 year, Mattel reported net income of $369.4 million, down 26% from 2014. Worldwide sales were up 2%.

Despite the late-year gains, the company still faces a number of challenges.

Mattel's Monster High and American Girl brands have continued to struggle. Since Jan. 1, Mattel has had to live without the rights to the Disney Princess properties, including the doll licenses for the hit movie "Frozen." Rival Hasbro Inc. won the doll licenses starting this year.

Mattel Chief Operating Officer Richard Dickson pointed to the company's other licensing agreements involving Disney films, such as "Toy Story 4" and "Cars 3," as a sign that the relationship between the two companies would continue to strengthen.

The toy maker said it plans to capitalize on Barbie's sales growth. Last week, Mattel announced a new line of Barbies with three different body types, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles after years of criticism that the dolls did not reflect their diverse audience.

For more business news, follow Samantha Masunaga on Twitter:@smasunaga.

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