Mattel Inc. on Tuesday reported that its first-quarter profit more than quadrupled because of a tax benefit.


El Segundo-based Mattel, the largest U.S. toy maker, also said that U.S. sales of its flagship Barbie line rose 1 percent, reversing a fourth-quarter sales drop of 18 percent. But the company reported an operating loss and said worldwide Barbie sales fell 8 percent.


Mattel's first-quarter earnings were $30.2 million, or 8 cents a per share, compared with earnings of $6.5 million, or 2 cents, a year ago. The results include a tax benefit of 15 cents per share.


Mattel shares slipped 0.54 percent to $16.56 in midday trading.


"On Barbie, we're not out of the woods yet, but I do feel better about where we are than I have for the past nine months," Chief Executive Robert Eckert said during a conference call with analysts.


The company, which has been trying to reverse lower Barbie sales as girls are lured to Van Nuys-based MGA Entertainment Inc.'s rival Bratz dolls, recently unveiled an updated Ken doll and has provided Barbie with a trendier wardrobe through its Fashion Fever line.


On an operating basis, Mattel reported a first-quarter loss of $32 million compared to operating income of $5.5 million. The operating results included $13 million of severance charges for jobs cuts due to the consolidation of the Mattel and Fisher-Price brands divisions into one unit.


Mattel also said it is raising prices as much as 3 percent on some items starting this month to offset increased costs for plastic amid record oil prices.


"The Barbie numbers and the squeeze that they're getting in terms of the cost pressures are probably the two key overhangs on the stock right now," Anthony Lombardi, who helps manage more than $110 billion including Mattel shares at Delaware Investment Management in Philadelphia, told Bloomberg News.

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