Medical gear group Getinge posts profit rise, shares soar

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Troubled Swedish medical technology group Getinge reported an unexpected gain in fourth-quarter core profit on a stronger margin, and forecast an increase in sales in 2019, sending its shares soaring more than 12 percent.

Adjusted profit before interest, tax and amortization was 1.41 billion crowns (118.50 million pounds) compared with 1.38 billion crowns a year ago and a Reuters poll forecast of 1.28 billion. That was the first rise since the second quarter of 2017.

"We see signs of margins starting to improve – the adjusted gross margin was, for the first time in 2018, sequentially higher, albeit only slightly. We have good control of our operating expenses," CEO Mattias Perjos said.

Order intake at the maker of products for surgery, intensive-care, infection control and sterilization shrank 3 percent on a like-for-like basis.

"Customer signals indicate that we can expect order growth in future quarters, and for the full-year 2019 we believe that net sales will increase organically by 2-4 percent," Perjos said.

Getinge's shares, which were down 1.2 percent before the report, rose 12.5 percent at 1223 GMT while the STOXX Europe health care index was roughly unchanged.

Getinge has had a few turbulent years with setbacks ranging from earnings misses to costly quality control problems at plants, and it is subject to a fraud investigation in Brazil.

In October, it made a 1.8 billion crown provision related to lawsuits in the United States and Canada against its surgical mesh business.

Ahead of the earnings report, Getinge's shares were down 18 percent over the past 12 months, against a 2 percent drop for the health care index.

The firm proposed a dividend of 1.00 crowns per share, down from 1.50 crowns, against a median forecast for unchanged.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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