Entertainment One Ltd., owner of the rights to cartoon character Peppa Pig, may add a can-do builder and a heroic Welsh firefighter to a stable of talent that includes the tea-swilling pink swine and teenage vampires.
The company is seeking acquisitions and would consider buying pieces of U.K. peer Hit Entertainment Ltd., which owns the rights to children’s TV characters such as Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine, Chief Financial Officer Giles Willits said in an interview yesterday.
“Hit would represent a fantastic opportunity to speed up our strategy” of boosting holdings in family entertainment, Willits said. “It would be lovely to get a chance to bid.”
Entertainment One, based in Toronto, also distributes movies such as the “Twilight” vampire film franchise and produces television content including the “Rookie Blue” cop series. It is in talks with three or four parties and expects to make its next purchase by late summer or early fall, Willits said without identifying the targets.
Private-equity firm Apax Partners LLP, which owns London-based Hit, last month started the sale procedure for the media company, a person familiar with the matter said, declining to be identified as the process is private. All or parts of the company are on offer, the person said. An Apax spokesman declined to comment.
Peppa, one of the most popular cartoons for U.K. pre-school children, earned 200 million pounds ($327 million) in retail sales there last year, Willits said. Pig fans can buy dozens of Peppa products ranging from cuddly toys, shoes, clothing and DVDs to a playhouse and the Peppa Pig Royal Family Figure Set.
Entertainment One shares have more than doubled in London trading in the past year. The stock was unchanged today at 161.5 pence as of 10:38 a.m., giving the company a market value of 328 million pounds.
The company is also seeking to expand with purchases in territories including Germany, France and Scandinavia and would consider TV assets in the U.K. and U.S., Willits said.
Entertainment One also aims to do more digital content deals with companies such as Hulu LLC, Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc.’s iTunes.
“There’s a digital content land grab going on right now,” Willits said.
Entertainment One announced a deal last month with Mattel Inc.-owned Fisher-Price to develop a toy line based on the Peppa Pig series.
Peppa in Vegas
The cartoon began airing on Viacom Inc.’s Nick Jr. in the U.S. in February and is now among that channel’s top 10 shows, with a half million viewers per episode in the two- to five-year-old audience category.
Peppa will be promoted at the Licensing International Expo next week in Las Vegas, Willits said. Peppa’s Fisher-Price toy line will be released by Christmas 2012. Entertainment One said the pig could eventually generate 600 million pounds in retail sales.
Entertainment One also plans a refinancing later this year, said Willits. The company’s current loan facility is worth $175 million and includes banks such as JPMorgan, Barclays, RBC, and Santander.