Market Mishandles Marvel

Marvel Enterprises (NYSE: MVL  ) polished off its third quarter today, with results that were better than its twice-raised expectations. Shares are dipping over 6%, however, apparently on the market's shortsighted focus on the company's sales stagnation.

Total revenues came in at $84.54 million, a hair ahead of the prior period's $84.38. Gasp! Is Marvel losing its juice? Is the lowly comic-book-company-turned-licensing-powerhouse running out of steam?

Take a breath, people. And then take a closer look at Marvel's results.

Marvel's toy business, which the company's smartly starting to outsource, was at the heart of this sales "disappointment." In last year's Q3, we were in full Spider-Man swing, with everyone and their grandma snapping up Spidey toys and action figures like nobody's business. As a result, toy revenues were just $23 million this quarter, vs. $44 million last year. Further, toy sales from this summer's movies, like The Hulk, are now included in Marvel's licensing revenues, since they were outsourced.

Speaking of Marvel's licensing revenues, that's what the market should be celebrating today. The company's licensing sales climbed 67% to $41.6 million for the quarter. Through the first nine months of the year, licensing revenues are $148.3 million -- nearly triple last year's amount over the same period.

Motley Fool Stock Advisor subscribers have certainly enjoyed watching Marvel transform itself. Since David Gardner first recommended it in July 2002's issue, Marvel has soared 471%. David re-recommended it in Dec. 2002, and had you waited to buy then, you'd be sitting on only a 256% gain.

The good times aren't over yet for Marvel. It has a stable of thousands of characters just waiting for their shot at the big screen. And next year, moviegoers will have Spider-Man 2, Blade 3, The Punisher, and the Fantastic Four to enjoy. That spells more fun for Marvel, and its shareholders.

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