UPDATE 2-Resilient Fresenius boosts payout policy

Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:28am EST

* Dividend to rise faster

* Adjusted 2012 net income above expectations

* FMC's 2013 profit outlook more cautious than market view

* Fresenius and FMC shares rise as broader market falls

By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT, Feb 26 (Reuters) - German healthcare group Fresenius has beefed up its dividend payout policy on the expectation that two of its key businesses will weather difficult markets on both sides of the Atlantic.

The company said on Tuesday that it will pay a higher than expected 2012 dividend and promised higher dividend growth rates in future.

Its Kabi division, which makes generic infusion drugs and gastric tube feeding supplies, is expected to benefit from the introduction of products established in the United States to emerging markets and Europe.

The group also forecasts growth for its separately listed subsidiary Fresenius Medical Care (FMC), the world's largest dialysis provider, on the increase in longevity, obesity and diabetes - contributing factors to kidney failure - across much of the world.

For this year, Fresenius said that FMC's net income will rise only slightly because of austerity measures in the United States, its biggest market.

However, analysts have said that FMC's focus on life-threatening illness and its buying power with suppliers means that it may take U.S. healthcare spending cuts in its stride.

Shares in Fresenius and FMC were up 2.2 percent and 1.6 percent respectively at 1317 GMT, two of only three gainers in Germany's blue-chip DAX index, which dropped 1.7 percent.

DIVIDEND GROWTH

Fresenius said it will pay a dividend of 1.1 euros ($1.45) per share for 2012, above the 1.07 euros average forecast in a Reuters poll and up from 0.95 euros last year. It added that future dividend growth would be in line with increases in adjusted earnings per share (EPS).

Previously, the annual dividend grew only at about half the rate of increases in adjusted EPS. This led to a gradual deterioration of the payout ratio. At 21 percent in 2012, this neared the bottom of its target range of 20-25 percent of adjusted EPS.

Adjusted net income in 2012 rose 22 percent to 938 million euros, ahead of the average estimate of 930 million euros in a Reuters poll.

FMC took a more cautious view than some analysts over the expected hit from cutbacks in the U.S. healthcare sector.

The dialysis specialist, which competes with DaVita HealthCare Partners and Baxter International, predicted net income of between $1.1 billion and $1.2 billion this year. The consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of 11 banks and brokerages was $1.21 billion.

U.S. Congress, battling to rein in its budget deficit, is debating various cutbacks at state-run health schemes, such as Medicare, that account for about 30 percent of the German company's revenue.

The White House on Monday escalated a campaign to warn of dire consequences if automatic government spending cuts go ahead on March 1.

FMC said that it may lift the lower end of its earnings target range if such cuts can be averted and Equinet Bank analyst Konrad Lieder pointed out that the company has a history of lifting its outlook as the year progresses.

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.