UPDATE 1-Arseus eyes buys as drug business drives strong Q1
* Q1 sales 111 million euros vs expected 109 million
* Keeps 2011 like-for-like turnover growth target of 3-6 pct
* Cutting low value-added business
* Shares rise 2 pct to new all-time high
(Adds detail, background, CEO, analyst comment, shares)
BRUSSELS, April 8 (Reuters) - Belgo-Dutch medical equipment and services company Arseus NV (RCUS.BR) said it was seeking acquisitions for its key pharmaceutical ingredients business after reporting strong first-quarter sales.
Arseus, which sells surgical equipment, dental chairs and drug ingredients for pharmacies, said on Friday sales rose 15 percent to 111 million euros ($160 million), compared with a forecast for 109 million.
The clear outperformer was its Fagron unit, which supplies pharmacies with drug compounds to make bespoke products such as cancer cocktails, skin treatments and HIV medication.
Chief Executive Ger van Jeveren told Reuters that Arseus was busy identifying acquisition targets in Europe, the United States and Latin America, and said he was confident of making purchases this year.
IT division, Corilus, also grew by more than expected.
Arseus shares, which first traded in 2007 after splitting from health products distributor Omega Pharma OMEP.BR, pushed to an all-time high of 12.60 euros in early trading, a gain of 2.0 percent.
ING analyst Sjoerd Ummels said he was impressed by higher than expected growth of Fagron and solid expansion of Corilus, the two Arseus divisions with the highest profit margins.
"My investment case for the company is based on Fagron's further development ... They seem to have flawlessly integrated in Brazil and the U.S. and this has fired up the internal growth rate," he said.
The dental division was broadly stable as the economic recovery only slowly filtered through to customers, while medical sales fell, because of the discontinuation of certain activities, such as the sale of hospital beds.
Van Jeveren said he was untroubled by first-quarter like-for-like growth of 3.2 percent being at the low end of the full-year target range of 3 to 6 percent.
"We could easily push it up to 4 percent, but we are reducing the low value-added businesses on which we make little money," he said on a telephone call.
Belgian Arseus NV is listed on NYSE Euronext Brussels and Amsterdam, while Dutch Arseus BV runs the group's operations. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Ben Hirschler) ($1=.6943 Euro)
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