Thomas the Tank Engine snapped up by Mattel

Mattel, the US toy giant behind Barbie and Hot Wheels, is to purchase Hit entertainment, the British maker of Thomas the Tank Engine, for £500m in cash.

The deal will see the enlarged group continue to focus on consumer products and toys across a broader demographic thanks to Hit’s specialism in the pre-school market.

Hit Entertainment chief executive, Jeffrey Dunn, said: "It is fitting that the world's premier toy company should become the owner of the world's premier pre-school property. Mattel is a wonderful steward of brands and a great home for the outstanding properties Hit has developed and grown."

The deal is expected to be finalised by early 2012.

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