'Potter' spells trouble for Corgi

Film delay hits wizard toymaker hard, now in receivership

HONG KONG -- Toy company Corgi International has run into major financial problems it blames in part on the delayed release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

The Hong Kong-based company, which owns the master license to sell Harry Potter toys and figurines in much of the world, ran into cash flow problems and is now in receivership, a form of temporary court administration. A decision whether it can continue to function will be taken in the next few days.

In a statement the company management blamed its problems on "the delay of the 'Harry Potter' movie and the difficulty in the credit markets in securing sufficient production financing."

Warner Bros.' "Half-Blood" was originally to have been released last November, but is now being released worldwide, including Hong Kong, over the next week.

According to press reports, Corgi ordered merchandise ready for sale at the time of the November release. Unable to sell them at the time it was then unable to secure bank finance.

The company used to be listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange and three years ago employed 8,000. It has scaled back significantly since then, selling businesses that included model car maker Corgi Classics, British toy train maker Hornby, Popco (which was also in the Harry Potter business in Europe), and U.S.-based film-related toymaker Master Replicas.

Computer game manufacturer Electronic Arts was also forced to delay from November to this summer release of its "Half-Blood" tie-in video game. In an SEC filing last year, EA said that release represented $120 million in revenue and 13% per share of earnings.