CHORION: Good Growth in Challenging Market - EBITDA up by 11%

NEW YORK & LONDON--()--Chorion, the global media content group, announces results for the year to 31 March 2010.

Highlights

  • OLIVIA – very successful launch in the US, a leading show on Nick Jr for girls 6-11.
    • Broadcast in 120 countries: top-rated show on Five’s Milkshake (UK) and ABC (Australia)
    • OLIVIA books were Simon & Schuster’s most successful licensed character launch, over 1m books TV tie-in books sold in US
    • iPhone app OLIVIA Paints reached no. 1 across all kid’s apps in iPhone Store when launched in US last month
    • Full retail product launch in US for Christmas 2010
  • Octonauts premiers on BBC TV in autumn 2010
    • Extensive toy line developed by Fisher-Price, retail launch Christmas 2011
  • Beatrix Potter – signed deal with Frederick Warne to create new animated programming for international TV distribution; remake classic Peter Rabbit
  • Mr. Men and Little Miss
    • 11m books sold last year
    • Broadcast in over 20 countries
  • Agatha Christie five films were delivered with another three in production
  • EBITDA up 11% to £14.9m* (2009: £13.4m) – four year CAGR 32%

Waheed Alli, Chorion’s Chairman commented

“Despite the challenging trading conditions our strategy to focus on strong classic brands whilst increasing our international reach, has ensured that we have continued to grow and develop the business.

“We are particularly pleased with the performance of OLIVIA in the USA over the last year and are looking forward to the premier of Octonauts on the BBC in September.

“We are also very excited about making a new TV series of Beatrix Potter’s characters and introducing Beatrix Potter’s characters to a new generation of children around the world.

“Next year looks to be an exciting one for Chorion as we develop the business and maintain our growth momentum.”

*All comparison figures are proforma 12 months to 31 March 2009 reflecting the year end change last year.

Strategic overview

Chorion’s goal is to become a significant global provider of children’s entertainment through the acquisition, origination and development of a diversified portfolio of children’s brands and characters capable of generating significant returns from television and film, as well as licensing and merchandise, particularly in the key territories of the US, Japan, UK and France.

The rationale for Chorion going private in 2006 was to provide the necessary flexibility to enable the long-term, strategic development of children’s brands, which typically take three to four years from development to launch in the international TV and merchandising markets.

The last few years have seen a transformation of the Group. This has included: the development of a broader and growing portfolio of children’s brands with international appeal; the maintenance of the strategy to launch one new property annually; the increase in long-term visibility, recurring and international revenues; and importantly the achievement of growth in the US.

Financial review

Group

EBITDA rose 11% to £14.9m (2009: £13.4m) as a result of a strong operating performance and tight cost control. Group revenues were £51.7m (2009: £53.2m) reflecting the challenging economic trading conditions around the world and the fact that no new characters were launched for the Christmas season in 2009.

The Group achieved strong revenue growth across a number of its classic brands, with good international growth in the key territories of the US (up 5%), Australia (up 9%) and Japan (up 28%). Group gross profits were £29.5m (2009: £30.6), with gross margins holding steady at 57.1% (2009: 57.5%).

Children’s division

Revenues in the Children’s division were flat at £32.8m (2009: £32.8m). Gross profits were £21.5m (2009: £22.5m).

Mr. Men and Little Miss continued their strong growth as key contributors to revenues and profitability. Revenues increased by 19% and the brands make up 22% of Group revenues, or £11.5m. Gross profit on the Mr. Men and Little Miss brands rose to 34% and they now contribute more than 35% of gross profits across the Group.

Noddy remains the second largest revenue generator in the Children’s division, contributing 12% of Group sales. Having successfully refreshed and re-launched the 60-year old character on UK’s Five, with a 52-part animated series, the Group had hoped for stronger sales of merchandising at retail. However, the closure of Woolworths, a major outlet, left the Noddy licensee with a significant surplus of inventory that was subsequently sold at deep discount to another retailer, impacting revenues.

The Group is now developing a new range of toys with NSR and expects a new, higher-quality range will be launched in 2011.

Sales of Noddy in France, Spain and Portugal continued to show good growth.

Crime division

Revenues from the Crime division were £18.9m (2009: £20.3m), although the gross margin was up, reflecting the timing of film deliveries.

Outlook

Despite challenging trading conditions around the world, the Group has been able to maintain its growth momentum by increasing its international reach and developing key properties during the year.

The successful launch of OLIVIA in the US was particularly satisfying; having become a top rated show on Nickelodeon Jr, OLIVIA became a global sensation airing in 120 countries. The Group is confident that OLIVIA will enjoy significant success following its retail launch in time for Christmas this year.

The Group is also optimistic about the prospects for Octonauts, its new action-adventure series for pre-school children, which will premier on the BBC in the autumn, with subsequent launches on TF1 France, ABC Australia and TV2 Norway. The BBC launch will be supported with extensive promotion, both on and offline and significant on-air promotion. The Group has signed a partnership with Fisher Price which will see the launch of a range of action figures and playsets in time for Christmas 2011.

Separately, following the huge growth of online and wireless digital media, including the iPhone and iPad, the Group plans to implement a detailed review of the carrying value of all its IP. Chorion has a very substantial and rich catalogue of IP and expects to significantly benefit from further and wider exploitation of its classic and new brands, across the whole range of new media digital platforms, for example the iPhone app OLIVIA Paints.

Overall Chorion is on course to become a significant global provider of children’s entertainment.

Brand review

Children’s division

OLIVIA

OLIVIA had an excellent first year following network launches in the US, UK and 120 other countries. To date, more than 7m OLIVIA books have been sold worldwide. Original publisher Simon & Schuster launched TV tie-in books in the U.S., UK and Australia in November 2009, which alone have sold over one million copies. OLIVIA books have been Simon & Schuster’s most successful licensed publishing launch since Dora the Explorer. DVD sales have also been very strong.

The character is gaining significant momentum in advance of her retail launch for Christmas 2010. The Group is confident that Olivia will enjoy significant success at retail this year, starting with the back-to-school market in September 2010 and continuing into 2011 with international retail launches backed by TV advertising and TV tie-in books in key territories.

Other brand highlights include:

  • Global master toy licensee, Spin Master’s range of OLIVIA pre-school girls’ toys will be supported by a major TV advertising campaign and promotional in-store marketing programmes. Plans are in place for dedicated presentations of the OLIVIA collection at leading retailers such as Toys ‘R’ Us, Target, Barnes & Noble and Borders.
  • Nickelodeon Home Video in the US is set to launch a holiday DVD Merry Christmas OLIVIA on 5 October 2010, following the successful release of two previous DVD titles - OLIVIA in August 2009 and OLIVIA Takes Ballet in March 2010.
  • The iPhone app OLIVIA Paints reached no. 1 across all kid’s apps in the iPhone Store when it launched in the US last month and has remained in the top 50 of all apps available.
  • OLIVIA Acts Out, a TV tie-in holiday title, sold enough books at launch in the US to rank no. 2 on The New York Times best sellers list.
  • OLIVIA Claus, a TV tie-in holiday title, also launches on 5 October 2010, a “one-two hit punch” with same-day holiday book and DVD releases.

The Octonauts

The Octonauts is a 50 part series with one special pre-school brand developed in-house and sold for launch across the BBC’s CBeebies, TF1 in France and ABC Australia in 2010.

In October 2009, Chorion signed a TV tie-in book deal with Simon & Schuster UK to include picture books, novelties and ebooks.

In January 2010, Chorion augmented the brand with a master toy license for Fisher-Price Inc. The agreement includes plush toys, musical talking toys, vehicles, playsets, bath and role play toys, and electronic learning aids.

The World of Beatrix Potter™

The World of Beatrix Potter generates total retail sales of more than $500m worldwide, across 350 licensees and retail initiatives from over 10,000 products and services. More than 250 million books have been sold since the first publication in 1902 of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

In June 2010, Chorion expanded the reach of The World of Beatrix Potter with new licensees, retail products and expanded product lines for Peter Rabbit across the US, UK, Australia and Asia. Consumer research in US, UK and Australia has confirmed Peter Rabbit as a top choice for infant gifting whilst in Japan the Beatrix Potter brand commands unequalled consumer engagement.

In December, Chorion and Frederick Warne announced plans to create new animated programming based on Beatrix Potter’s world-famous classic characters such as Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and Jemima Puddle-duck. The animated series will be developed for global TV.

Together with Chorion, Frederick Warne will continue to develop the licensing and merchandise programme for Beatrix Potter’s characters. Frederick Warne retains all publishing rights to the Beatrix Potter works.

Other brand developments included:

  • Planned expansion of house wares range at Pottery Barn Kids in the US in 2010/11
  • Plans to launch products at Toys ‘R’ Us stores in Australia from August 2010
  • Haven Licensing and Bull’s Licensing signed as licensing agents for Australia and Scandinavia respectively, July 2009
  • Appointment of agents to develop licensing and merchandising initiatives in France, Germany, Benelux and Scandinavia
  • Announcement of major exhibition Peter Rabbit: The Tale of the Tale at the V&A Museum in London, running from 3 July 2010 to 8 January 2011

Chorion has already started to develop products for the 110th Anniversary of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, featuring commemorative editions, retail promotions, consumer media and events in 2012.

Mr. Men and Little Miss

Mr. Men and Little Miss, the 40-year old global brands with 83 characters, continued their strong international growth, generating more than $100m of total product revenues at retail across 280 licensees. More than 100m books have been sold to date with the characters appearing on TV in over 20 countries.

In the US nearly 4m T-shirts were sold. Over 300 Little Miss Sunshine T-shirt designs have been created since 2006 via the license agreement with Junk Food.

In the UK, a 40th anniversary programme was launched including a focus on the original character, Mr. Tickle, with special-edition products and retail events.

Other highlights during the year for the Mr. Men and Little Miss brands include:

  • 11m books sold worldwide.
  • Launch of Little Miss Sunshine fashion collection at International Licensing Expo, June 2010
  • New apparel licensees announced in May 2010, including Fruit of the Loom in the US, the first ever baby wear for Mothercare in the UK through licensee Crystal Martin and European licenses with Sahinler Group and TV Mania
  • New toy partners announced in February 2010 including US manufacturer Flapjacks (luggage tags, flip journals, vinyl figures), Paper Magic Group (stickers, gift wrap, Valentine’s themed products), Ouchies (Adhesive bandages), Giant Tree House (gardening products), HYP Hats (hosiery, flip flops, socks, slippers), Gelaskins (gadget cases)
  • The first iPhone app licenses were awarded in January 2010 to Scrollmotion for scrolling books

Noddy

In his sixtieth year, Noddy is more popular than ever, being screened in more than 100 countries. Over 200m books and 4m DVDs have been sold worldwide.

Following its highly successful launch on Five in the UK, Chorion’s new 52 parts computer-animated series Noddy in Toyland was picked up by broadcasters in Portugal, Norway, Finland, France. Its predecessor, Make Way for Noddy (104 episodes) was additionally sold in Finland and Spain.

Other brand highlights

Chorion also represents Eric Carle, Paddington Bear, Beatrix Potter (we can remove this mention as we’ve already mentioned Beatrix Potter separately) and other classic brands that have seen an uplift in licensing and merchandising activity this year.

The World of Eric Carle

17m copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar have been sold in the US to date with Walmart ordering 800,000 copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar in H2 2009. Stride Rite are launching a footwear range shortly followed by a baby wear programme. A new line of early learning products are due for launch in H2 2011.

Gaspard & Lisa

This brand continues to be particularly successful in Japan where there are over 70 licences and 1,000 products. With over 10 years of market presence in Japan, key categories for consumer products include accessories, gifts, novelty items, house wares and a dedicated branded cafés. Worldwide the book series has some 39 titles in 15 languages.

Chorion signed a major co-production deal with Japan-based Sony Creative Products in October 2009. SCP took up television, home entertainment and merchandising rights for a number of North Asian territories and renewed its exclusive licensing representation for Gaspard and Lisa in the same territories.

In H2 2010 Chorion will be launching its Gaspard & Lisa TV series on TF1 France, YLE Finland, DR Denmark, and Yoyo Taiwan.

Spot

50m Spot books have sold globally to date, including over 20m in the US, in more than 100 countries in over 60 languages. Global licensing programme includes toys, apparel, gifts and home entertainment.

Spot’s 30th anniversary was celebrated with the introduction of new products, ongoing retail promotions and consumer events across multiple territories. BBC America released three DVD titles and Frederick Warne launched a 30th Anniversary special edition of Where’s Spot? with other products. New toys from Kids Preferred (US) and Rainbow Designs (UK) are due launch in 2011

Paddington Bear

Over 35m books made up of 70 titles have been sold to date worldwide in more than 30 languages. There are 130 consumer product licences licensees and over 1,000 Paddington Bear products worldwide.

In 2010 Paddington celebrates in the US 50 years since the publication of A Bear Called Paddington, with retail promotions and special products planned for the second half of the year.

Flower Fairies

Nearly 2m books have sold in the US, with almost 80 titles in print to date. It has 85 licensees worldwide with Flower Fairies merchandise found in Australia, Japan, Europe, Middle East, and US.

Fairyopolis, A Flower Fairies Journal, was in the Top Ten on The New York Times Children’s Bestsellers list for over a year. Chorion also introduced a number of new product including ladies nightwear and underwear collections at Topshop in UK and fashion t-shirts in FøRSTE stores in Japan plus apparel and house wares for adults and children by IPER in Italy.

Chorion has appointed Copyright Promotions Licensing Group as new agents for Flower Fairies in Germany, France, Benelux, Italy and Bulls Press for Scandinavia.

Crime division

The key estates within this division are Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon. In addition, the Group also owns or controls Raymond Chandler, Robert Bolt, Margery Allingham, Edmund Crispin, Dennis Wheatley, Nicolas Freeling.

Five Agatha Christie films were delivered and another three are in productions, including a remake of Murder on the Orient Express starring David Suchet. Three were broadcast over the 2009 Christmas period on ITV: Appointment with Death, They Do It With Mirrors and Three Act Tragedy ,

Additional background information - www.chorion.co.uk

Based in New York and London, Chorion is a global media content company with a strong base in the pre-school market. It is the owner of a range of iconic children's characters including Noddy, Mr. Men and Little Miss, Olivia and the Octonauts.

Chorion works with publishers, TV and film production companies, and toy manufacturers worldwide to bring these characters to life across a wide range of family-friendly media and toys, with the objective of stimulating, educating and inspiring children, their parents and care givers.

Key global partners include major children’s broadcasters including The Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon; major publishers such as Harper Collins, Penguin and Egmont; and toy makers including Fisher Price, Bandai and Spinmaster.

Apart from its children’s brands, Chorion is also the owner of several famous literary estates, including Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon.

Chorion was listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange from 2002 to 2006, when it was taken private by 3i and Chorion’s management team, for a total enterprise value of £135m.

Chorion owns or has the publishing, licensing, merchandising and media rights to the following key properties:

Children’s properties

 

Mr. Men Little Miss - Classic

Mr. Men Little Miss - Children's

Noddy

The World of Beatrix Potter*

Paddington Bear*

Olivia **

The World of Eric Carle*

Octonauts **

Famous Five

Spot *

Enid Blyton

Gaspard & Lisa

Max and Ruby

Flower Fairies *

The Ladybird Archive *

The Snowman *

Horrible Histories *

Horrible Science *

Dan Dare *

Amazing Baby *

The Little Prince *

 

* Licensing and merchandising only

** Not classic publishing rights

  Literary Estates

 

Agatha Christie

Georges Simenon

Raymond Chandler

Robert Bolt

Margery Allingham

Nicholas Freeling

Edmund Crispin

Dennis Wheatley

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady

Contacts

College Hill for Chorion
Adrian Duffield/Carl Franklin
020 7457 2020

Contacts

College Hill for Chorion
Adrian Duffield/Carl Franklin
020 7457 2020