UPDATE 1-Reed Elsevier seeks to speed up disposals
* H1 underlying sales up 5 pct, op profit up 7 pct
* Sees faster disposals mildly dilutive to EPS
* Will use divestment proceeds to buy back shares
VIENNA, July 26 (Reuters) - Professional publishing and events group Reed Elsevier plans to speed up disposals of non-core businesses and said it would buy back shares to mitigate the modestly negative impact this would have on earnings per share.
The Anglo-Dutch group reported underlying first-half growth of 5 percent in sales and 7 percent in adjusted operating profit, beating analysts' estimates, and said on Thursday full-year sales and profits would be in line with its own forecasts.
Chief Executive Erik Engstrom cautioned, though, that macro economic uncertainty would continue to weigh on the company.
"Many of our customer markets are slow and have been slow now for quite a while," he told reporters on a conference call.
"At this point, we don't see any reason to believe that that's going to change in the near term."
Reed Elsevier is pursuing a strategy of gradual disposals of operations that it cannot develop at global scale, or which are dependent on advertising markets - having failed to sell its large trade magazines division wholesale some years ago.
It recently completed the sale of totaljobs, Britain's largest online job employment site, and is trying to sell the iconic Hollywood magazine Variety.
The group said first-half growth was driven by higher volumes across its divisions - which include the world's biggest exhibitions business and professional and academic publications for lawyers and scientists - as well as new products.
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