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5 Key Things Investors Should Know From Hasbro Inc.'s Q4 Earnings Call

By Beth McKenna - Feb 17, 2016 at 10:20AM

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Here’s what the toy and game maker's management had to say about the company’s top two brands, the sustainability of its expanded margins, and more.

Hasbro (HAS -0.65%) reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2015 earnings last week. The toy maker posted strong earnings and revenue growth on a constant-currency basis. Quarterly results were driven by robust holiday sales of toys based on Disney's (DIS 1.84%) phenomenally successful Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

Hasbro's stock has returned 17.4% over the one-year period through Feb. 12, reflecting the company's solid business performance. This significantly beats the S&P 500's total return of negative 7.7%.

Our purpose isn't to rehash the earnings results (you can read my take on those here), but to supplement the earnings release data with color from Hasbro's analyst conference call. Here are five key things you should know.

Image source: Hasbro.

1. Expanded margins of 2015 are sustainable
Hasbro's gross margin increased from 60.3% in 2014 to 62.3% in 2015, while its operating margin expanded from 14.9% to 15.5%. CEO Brian Goldner's response to a question indicates the company expects these higher margins to be sustainable and perhaps even grow:

If you look at our gross and operating margins, we believe that they are sustainable at approximately the 2015 levels, and over time we would hope to continue to expand those. We've talked about the points of leverage that we have in our business in order to expand them over time.

Obviously the growth of our franchise brands that enjoy a higher than average operating profit margin, the growth of our entertainment and licensing business which as you saw has a very strong operating margin as well, and then of course as we continue to grow international markets, particularly emerging markets and we get greater economy of scale, those begin to approach the company's average operating profit margin.

So those three levers broadly will enable us over time to continue to expand operating margins, but we do believe that our operating profit margins and gross margins are at a new place and can remain at this higher level beyond 2015.

2. Nerf and Play-Doh were the dynamic duo of franchise brands
Nerf was Hasbro's largest brand (including partner brands) by revenue in 2015, while Play-Doh's revenue growth was the strongest. From Goldner's remarks:

Nerf had a record year, increasing 13%, with new insight-driven innovations including Nerf Modulus and Rival and growth in Zombie Strike and N-Strike Elite. Nerf was the largest brand across Hasbro last year. ... For the third year in a row, Play-Doh delivered record revenues, increasing 32%. We saw strong growth across all regions including a 49% increase in Latin America. While DohVinci contributed to growth in its first full year, we also experienced double-digit gains in core Play-Doh compounds and play sets. 

Goldner wouldn't provide exact revenue, but did say that Nerf accounted for a double-digit percentage of Hasbro's total revenue.

3. My Little Pony rode to the top finish in licensed brands in 2015
Hasbro views this brand as a "major lifestyle" brand and plans to continue to invest in it. From Goldner's remarks:

My Little Pony remains a vibrant and growing property. The core My Little Pony brand did extremely well in 2015 with positive revenue growth in several countries backed by strong point-of-sale and the launch of the new Friendship is Magic collectible segment. My Little Pony has established itself as a major lifestyle brand, and for 2015 was our top licensed property. 

We experience a slowdown in Equestria Girls that offset much of the growth we saw in other areas of the brand. In January 2016, we launched a new Mini Dolls! Equestria Girls line which is off to a very good start.

Overall My Little Pony brand engagement is very high across all lines of the business. To maintain this momentum we are continuing to invest in multichannel storytelling, while evolving our entertainment strategy to more effectively deliver content.

A movie based on the brand is coming in 2017.

4. Bringing new winners into the fold
Just as important as building on its existing brands, Hasbro's bringing new brands into the fold, such as the immensely popular Pie Face. As Goldner noted, "Pie Face was a clear winner this holiday season and continues to be in high demand at retail. It was recently named toy of the year in the UK."

Pie Face was also named the best board game of 2016 by the U.S. Toy Industry Association on Feb. 13 during the kick-off to the 2016 North American International Toy Fair. 

As background, Hasbro acquired last year the rights from Rocket Games to manufacture and distribute Pie Face, which it began distributing in multiple markets in the fall. This game -- which involves suspense as to which player is going to get hit in the face with whipped cream -- went viral last year, which prompted Hasbro to acquire the manufacturing and distribution rights.

5. New Disney Princess and Frozen business is off to a good start
From Iger's remarks:

In 2016, Hasbro's line of Disney Princess and Disney Frozen fashion dolls and small dolls became available. These products are already on shelves in the U.S. and rolling out internationally. We shipped a very small amount of product in the fourth quarter, given the timing of retailer plans. Shipments are now ramping up and early consumer indications are positive.

As a reminder, the global rights to develop dolls based on Disney Princess characters and the immensely popular Frozen transitioned on Jan. 1 from Mattel to Hasbro. This should prove a robust new income source for Hasbro, as Mattel's gross sales for this line in 2015 were about $450 million, which is equivalent to 10% of Hasbro's 2015 revenue.

This latest win strengthened Hasbro's already strong ties to the diversified entertainment giant, as Hasbro already had three partner brands that are owned by Disney: Star Wars, Marvel, and Disney Descendants.

Hasbro's Star Wars partner brand is extremely valuable, and will continue to help drive the company's results for the next few years, since Disney has four more Star Wars films on the docket. Hasbro, however, has much breadth to its product line-up, as demonstrated in this article. 

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