Mattel close to deal for Thomas the Tank Engine

US TOYMAKER Mattel could buy Hit Entertainment, the British owner of Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder as soon as this week, paying just over £500m for the media group.

Hit has been owned by private equity firm Apax Partners since 2005, but US sources close to the deal have said a sale could be imminent, according to Sky News.

Apax hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch almost a year ago to advise on a possible sale, and the firm has since attracted interest from a wide pool of potential bidders, with Hasbro and Walt Disney also rumoured to be in the running.

Last week Mattel, the world’s biggest toymaker, reported a bigger-than-expected fall in gross margins, hurt by a stronger dollar and higher costs, taking the gloss off a record jump in sales of its iconic Barbie dolls heading into the critical holiday season.