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HIT Entertainment Buys Barney

February 9, 2001 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ Barney, the chubby purple dinosaur loved by millions of children, will be bought by the British.

In a union of preschool heavyweights, Britain’s HIT Entertainment PLC, announced Friday that will acquire Dallas-based Lyrick Corp., home of Barney, for $275 million.

The deal is expected to help London-based HIT expand the international presence of its characters, including Kipper the Dog, Angelina Ballerina the dancing mouse and stubby construction worker Bob (catch phrase: ``Can we fix it? Yes we can!″).

Under the agreement, Lyrick will receive $165 million in new HIT shares and $110 million in cash. Most of money will be raised by issuing shares with an estimated value of $105 million.

Barney _ a cuddly dinosaur whose catch phrase is ``I love you″ _ has been a fixture on U.S. television since 1992, and has a contract to broadcast on the Public Broadcasting System until 2007. He has sold 55 million videos, 68 million books and 25 million plush toys.

``Barney is a U.S. icon, an integral part of almost every American preschooler’s life with enormous international appeal,″ said HIT CEO Peter Orton.

HIT, with a market value of $600 million, recently signed a licensing deal with toy maker Mattel and sold a package of Bob the Builder cartoon programs to the U.S. television channel Nickelodeon. Bob the Builder has been shown on Nickelodeon since January.

Lyrick founder Dick Leach said the deal is a good fit.

``HIT is a wonderful company, who espouse the same values as we do about creating quality programs for the preschool market,″ he said.

The acquisition is subject to shareholder approval at March 5.

Trading in HIT shares was suspended last week after negotiations with Lyrick were announced. Before the suspension, they were valued at 440 pence.