UPDATE 1-Wolters Kluwer beats 2012 forecasts, sees low earnings growth

Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:47am EST

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AMSTERDAM Feb 20 (Reuters) - Dutch publisher Wolters Kluwer reported slightly better-than-expected 2012 results thanks to a pick-up in the important North American market and a further shift to online subscriptions.

The firm, whose specialist publications and software are used by doctors, bankers, accountants, and lawyers, also appointed Kevin Entricken as Chief Financial Officer, replacing Boudewijn Beerkens who is joining a Dutch family-owned company.

Wolters Kluwer, which competes with Reed Elsevier and Thomson Reuters , still sees low single-digit earnings-per-share growth this year.

But it slightly revised its target for earnings before interest, tax and amortization (EBITA) margin to a range of 21.5 to 22.0 percent, from 21.5 to 22.5 percent previously, to reflect accounting changes and restructuring.

More than 75 percent of the group's revenue comes from online or electronic products, up from 71 percent in 2011.

"Online services dominates our portfolio and will continue to do so," Chief Executive Nancy McKinstry told Reuters, a shift which would help underpin the business despite tough conditions in Europe this year.

"We will focus investments on our leading, high-growth positions, while actively pursuing portfolio refinements and operating efficiencies in order to accelerate growth and raise returns," McKinstry said.

The stock trades on a forward 12-month enterprise value (EV) to EBITDA ratio of 7.7 according to Starmine's SmartEstimates, against 7.5 for Reed Elsevier and 9.4 for Thomson Reuters - and at a 22 percent discount to its peer group.

Earnings before interest, tax and amortization (EBITA), excluding exceptional items, rose 8 percent to 785 million euros from 728 million euros in 2011. Revenue rose 7 percent to 3.603 billion euros.

Analysts in a poll commissioned by Reuters had expected ordinary EBITA of 771 million euros on revenue of 3.552 billion euros. Wolters Kluwer shares were up 0.5 percent by 0845 GMT. (Reporting by Sara Webb; editing by Mark John)

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