Comic-book publisher Marvel Enterprises Inc. (MVL) beat expectations with a fourth-quarter profit that more than doubled, helped by a tax credit, contributions from a joint venture with Sony (SNE) for "Spider-Man" movie merchandising and improved international licensing revenue.

The company's shares rose 44 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $18.89 Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Marvel said Monday its fourth-quarter net income rose to $30.1 million, or 27 cents a share, from $13.5 million, or 12 cents, a year earlier.

During the quarter, the New York company had a noncash, one-time income tax credit of about $6.2 million, or 6 cents a share, which cut the fourth-quarter income tax rate to 12.7 percent.

A Thomson First Call survey projected earnings of 16 cents a share for the latest quarter.

Marvel's fourth-quarter sales rose to $100.5 million from $85.7 million a year earlier, beating a Thomson First Call projection of $86.8 million.

Fourth-quarter licensing segment sales surged 89 percent to $56.7 million, mainly due to improved contributions and the consolidation of its joint venture with Sony for "Spider-Man (search)" movie merchandising, as well as international licensing operations.

Publishing sales rose 16.4 percent to $22.1 million on strong comic and trade paperbacks, while toy sales fell 40.9 percent to $21.8 million, due to decreased sales of action figures from the "The Lord of The Rings (search)" and "The Hulk" movies.

For the first quarter, Marvel expects earnings of 25 cents to 29 cents a share, compared with 27 cents a share a year earlier. But the company projects first-quarter sales will fall to between $88 million and $98 million from $122 million a year ago.

A company representative wasn't immediately available to say why Marvel is projecting a drop in total sales from a year earlier.

First Call projects first-quarter earnings of 26 cents a share on sales of $94.7 million.

Marvel also reiterated it expects 2005 full-year earnings of $1.07 to $1.12 a share on sales of $370 million to $390 million, including continued contributions from "Spider Man 2."

Analysts surveyed by First Call project, on average, earnings of $1.10 on sales of $384.7 million for the year.

For all of 2004, the company earned $1.10 a share on sales of $513 million, which includes charges of $12 million for the early redemption of senior notes.

Marvel said it is moving aggressively into the animated television and DVD markets to increase the worldwide support for its brand. Marvel also recently reached a distribution agreement with 7-Eleven convenience stores to introduce marvel comic books.