UPDATE 1-Wolters Kluwer eyes more deals in Europe
(Recasts with CEO interview)
AMSTERDAM, July 31 (Reuters) - Dutch publisher Wolters Kluwer plans further investment in Europe, where it sees some pockets of growth, Chief Executive Nancy McKinstry said on Wednesday.
The company, which sells specialist publications and software to bankers, lawyers, accountants, doctors and scientists, reported a 2 percent decline in revenues in Europe in the first half.
"We're taking a long-term view, and we continue to invest in Europe. We see pockets of growth," McKinstry told Reuters in a telephone interview, adding that the more attractive areas included tax and legal software.
Specialist publishers such as Wolters Kluwer have made the shift from print to online across their various businesses to improve profits.
The Dutch company spent 170 million euros in total on acquisitions in the first half, including deals in the United States and Brazil, while raising about 75 million euros from divestments. McKinstry said Wolters Kluwer would continue to divest as it strengthens its online portfolio.
She said the pace of decline in business in Europe had slowed but remained cautious, particularly on southern Europe.
Wolters Kluwer reported first-half earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) of 334 million euros ($443 million) on Wednesday, in line with forecasts, and reiterated its full-year outlook for a low single-digit percentage rise in earnings per share.
It said the ordinary EBITA margin - 19.2 percent in the first six months - was expected to improve in the second half.
Wolters Kluwer set targets for ordinary EBITA margin - or the margin for EBITA adjusted for exceptional items - of 21.5 to 22.0 percent. It targets free cash flow of 475 million euros or more, and a return on invested capital of 8 percent or more.
First-half revenue was flat at 1.74 billion euros. Analysts in a poll commissioned by Reuters had forecast EBITA of 334 million euros on revenue of 1.72 billion euros.
The Dutch group competes with Reuters' owner Thomson Reuters and with Anglo-Dutch information group Reed Elsevier , which last week increased its share buyback programme and announced a bigger-than-expected interim dividend as its results beat forecasts.