Marvel beats Street despite a weak Q4

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Marvel Entertainment, whose new film unit begins principal photography March 12 on "Iron Man," its first self-produced film, said Monday that its fourth-quarter profit fell from $25.9 million a year ago to $11.7 million.

Revenue fell from $117.1 million a year ago to $85.2 million but exceeded Wall Street's expectations. Nevertheless, shares fell 3.1% on Monday to $29.96. It was the third-biggest loser on The Hollywood Reporter's Showbiz 50 stock index.

Marvel's better-than-expected results in revenue and profit might have been overshadowed by the company's guidance, which was lowered slightly because of a tax-rate assumption. Marvel said it would earn $1.30-$1.55 per share this year, while its previous guidance called for $1.35-$1.55.

"Given that this change is not based on fundamentals, we do not believe it should have a meaningful impact on the stock," said Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Michael Kelman.

Marvel posted an increase from publishing sales and toy sales, though not from licensing, which was hurt by falling revenue from its Spider-Man joint venture with Sony Corp. In addition, Marvel last year benefited from the inclusion of a $50 million license fee with video game maker Activision Inc.

Marvel chairman Morton Handel said Monday that its latest movie resulting from a licensing agreement, "Ghost Rider," has earned $78.6 million at the domestic boxoffice since its Feb. 16 release and $95 million worldwide.

Sequels in the "Spider-Man" and "Fantastic Four" franchises are scheduled for this year. And in 2008, movies from its own studio are due, beginning with "Iron Man" and followed by "The Incredible Hulk."
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