UPDATE 1-Wolters Kluwer beats forecasts, driven by strong N.America

Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:49am EDT

* H1 EBITA 346 mln euro vs 336 mln euro in poll

* H1 revenue 1.74 bln euro vs 1.712 bln euro in poll

* Reiterates full-year guidance

By Sara Webb

AMSTERDAM, July 25 (Reuters) - Dutch publisher Wolters Kluwer NV said the strong performance in its North American business drove better-than-expected first-half results, putting it on track to meet its full-year targets.

The Dutch publisher of information for lawyers, tax specialists, doctors and scientists, which competes with Reed Elsevier and Thomson Reuters, has benefited from a steady shift of its business from print to higher-margin online versions.

"Improved momentum in North America and growth in our online, software and services products globally have helped deliver positive organic growth for the group in the first half," Chief Executive Nancy McKinstry said in a statement.

"Our performance is on track, despite challenging macro-economic conditions in Europe."

The group confirmed full-year guidance for an ordinary earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) margin of between 21.5 and 22.5 percent, free cash flow of 425 million euros ($513.6 million) or more, return on invested capital of 8 percent or more, and low single-digit growth in ordinary earnings per share.

First-half EBITA rose 7 percent to 346 million euros on revenue of 1.74 billion, also up 7 percent from a year ago.

Analysts in a poll commissioned by Reuters had forecast EBITA of 336 million euros on revenue of 1.71 billion.

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