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Barbie, Hot Wheels power Mattel's holiday-quarter sales beat

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Feb 9 (Reuters) - Mattel Inc beat estimates forquarterly sales on Tuesday as parents splurged on Barbie dollsand Hot Wheels cars for their children during a holiday seasonthat was dulled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The toymaker has seen a surge in sales since the latter halfof 2020 as the easing of coronavirus-led curbs drove toy storesto restock their shelves and cater to young families dealingwith canceled vacations and a dearth of social events.

That jump in sales may be hard to repeat in 2021, MattelChief Executive Officer Ynon Kreiz told Reuters in an interview.

"We do expect to deliver strong sales growth in the firsthalf (of 2021) compared to last year, but it will probably bemore challenging in terms of comparison in the second half,"Kreiz said.

The toymaker said worldwide gross billings for Barbie,Mattel's biggest brand, rose 19% in the fourth quarter, whileHot Wheels billings rose 13%. Gross billings excludes salesadjustments such as trade discounts.

Mattel's overall net sales rose about 10% to $1.63 billionfor the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, beating analysts'estimates of $1.58 billion, according to IBES data fromRefinitiv.

Rival Hasbro Inc reported a 3.6% increase incomparable holiday quarter revenue on Monday, also beatinganalysts estimates on demand for board games such as Monopoly,as well toys based on "The Mandalorian" TV series.

Mattel reported adjusted earnings of 40 cents per share, upfrom 11 cents per share a year earlier.

The company also announced a new cost-cutting program, aimedat saving about $250 million in costs by 2023. Mattel said itexpects to spend between $100 million to $125 million toimplement it.(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by AnilD'Silva)