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US toymaker Hasbro announced that it is acquiring studio Entertainment One, which owns popular cartoon series "Peppa Pig" among other children's content, for approximately US$4 billion. - AFP

WASHINGTON: US toymaker Hasbro announced Thursday that it is acquiring studio Entertainment One, which owns popular cartoon series “Peppa Pig” among other children’s content, for approximately US$4 billion.

Under the all-cash transaction, Entertainment One shareholders will receive £5.60 (US$6.86) per share, according to a statement from Hasbro.

In addition to Peppa Pig, the pink swine with a British accent who loves jumping in muddy puddles, the purchase includes the successful children’s cartoon “PJ Masks,” about a trio of young friends who become superheroes at night.

“The acquisition of highly profitable and merchandisable preschool brands is a strategic growth opportunity for Hasbro,” the company said.

“Peppa Pig” has extended itself to new profit streams that continue its success, it added.

Meanwhile “PJ Masks” growth outlook “is supported by new formats, its current rollout in China, the launch of new seasons in multiple regions, a live touring event and new toy lines.”

Hasbro is additionally banking on the success of the launch of yet another Entertainment One character, Ricky Zoom, a little red rescue bike, which it calls a “unique storyline with highly merchandisable content.”

The cartoon will launch on September 9 on US children’s network Nickelodeon, and in other major markets.

Hasbro plans for the acquisition to save it US$130 million through in-sourcing and other synergies by the year 2022.

Three quarters of the acquisition will be carried out with the proceeds of debt financing thanks to a loan of just under a year from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Approximately US$1-$1.25 billion will be financed in cash.

Hasbro said it is committed to doing everything within its power to maintain an investment grade rating.

The toymaker is not the first company to consider a bid for Entertainment One.

In 2016, British broadcaster ITV axed its informal £1-billion bid for the London-listed company, which had unanimously rejected the offer as too low.

But the Hasbro acquisition will likely benefit both companies, said Russ Mould, an analyst at investment platform AJ Bell.

“Hasbro is the master of a milking a brand to sell all types of merchandise and so it is the perfect owner of Entertainment One which boasts an ever-increasing portfolio of popular children’s brands,” he said.

The move also illustrates the rising interest in acquiring British companies that have become all the more attractive as the pound weakens amid fears about Brexit.

Entertainment One shares surged Friday on the London Stock Exchange, jumping 29.7 percent to £5.75 around 0850 GMT.

The increase in share price above that proposed by Hasbro suggests that investors may be waiting for a competing bid.

“It wouldn’t be surprising to see Amazon or Netflix want to throw their hat in the ring” given Entertainment One’s catalog, said Mould.

But he added that “perhaps more logical would be a counterbid from Disney given it is part owner of the PJ Masks brand.”--AFP

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