Nobel Biocare Rises as First-Quarter Profit Tops Estimates

Nobel Biocare Holding AG, the world’s second-biggest dental implant maker, reported first-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates, helped by currency effects in North America and Asia.

Earnings before interest and tax climbed to 20.8 million euros ($27.4 million) from 19 million euros excluding one-time items a year earlier, the Glattbrugg, Switzerland based-company said in a statement today. Analysts had expected Ebit of 17.5 million euros, according to the average of 12 estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

Nobel Biocare still expects Ebit this year will be in line with 2011 and the company aims for “modest” revenue growth at constant exchange rates, the company said. While sales grew in the Americas and Asia, revenue declined in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, partly because of economic conditions in Italy and Spain. Nobel Biocare is retraining its sales force to sell a broader range of products and investing in product development.

“We are not yet satisfied with our performance, but we are making significant progress in driving our strategy to improve our customers’ experience with Nobel Biocare,” Chief Executive Officer Richard Laube said in the statement. He joined the company last year, after leading Nestle SA’s nutrition unit.

The stock gained 4.2 percent to 11.15 Swiss francs at the close of Zurich trading, giving the company a market value of 1.38 billion francs ($1.52 billion).

Exceeding Expectations

“It’s one of the quarters where Nobel Biocare exceeded expectations for profit, which they used to miss regularly,” said Khon Quang, an analyst with Jefferies International Ltd. Nobel Biocare’s margin was 2.5 percentage points above his estimate. “We believe the stock is trading on the positive margin beat relative to expectations.”

Net income increased to 13.7 million euros from 12.9 million euros a year earlier, beating the 13.1 million-euro average estimate of 10 analysts. Sales rose to 147.6 million euros from 143.5 million euros a year earlier. Analysts had estimated sales of 147.1 million euros.

“It’s slightly positive,” Oliver Metzger, an analyst with Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt, said by phone today. “I had expected a more negative surprise in Europe and a better result in North America.”

Straumann AG, the world’s biggest dental implant maker based on 2011 sales, yesterday reported a 14 percent increase in North American sales in local currency during the quarter. Both companies expect the market to grow by a low single-digit percentage this year.

Nobel Biocare has lost market share and has had three CEOs since 2007. Analysts have speculated in the past year that the company may be a takeover target because of its sinking stock price and restructuring.

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