Cochlear Says China Is ‘Huge Opportunity’ for Hearing Implants

Cochlear Ltd., the 31-year-old hearing implant developer, said China’s growing affluence offers a “huge opportunity” for the Australian company as it tackles competition from Sonova Holding AG.

At least 30,000 babies each year are born with profound hearing difficulties in China and would benefit from an ear implant, Chief Executive Officer Chris Roberts said on the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s Inside Business program yesterday. Implants are devices that stimulate the hearing nerve in the inner ear and allow the user to perceive sound.

“China offers a huge opportunity in general as the country economically grows and shares that wealth throughout by growing a middle class with aspirations of having good health care,” Roberts said. “It’s a huge potential market.”

Cochlear’s revenue in the Asia Pacific region, including China, surged 33 percent in the six months ended December. That was more than four times the pace of growth in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and compared with just a 1 percent increase in the Americas, Cochlear said last week.

Shares of Cochlear have fallen 12 percent this year, trimming the company’s market capitalization to A$4 billion ($4.1 billion) and trailing a 6.9 percent advance by Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index. They rose 1.5 percent to A$70 on Feb. 8 in Sydney.

In the ABC interview, Roberts described China as “relevant,” though he said Cochlear “is not only a China story.” Sales in the Americas are almost double the total from the Asia Pacific region, filings show.

Cochlear swung to a profit of A$77.7 million in the second half of 2012 from a A$20.4 million loss a year earlier, when the company racked up product-recall expenses.

Sonova, the Staefa, Switzerland-based hearing-aid seller, in November said first-half profit rose as its cochlear-implant business became profitable.

Cochlear was formed more than three decades ago to develop a so-called bionic ear invented by Melbourne researcher Graeme Clark.

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