UPDATE 1-Essilor trims sales goal on slow economy

Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:04am EDT

* Essilor sees full-year sales up close to 7 pct

* H1 revenue rises 1.8 pct

* Shares fall 3.1 percent (Adds CEO comments, detail, share price, background)

PARIS, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Essilor, the world's largest maker of ophthalmic lenses, trimmed its full-year revenue growth target on Thursday, citing a sluggish economic environment and caution about the timing of acquisitions.

The firm said it now expected sales to grow close to 7 percent in 2013, down from a previous target of more than 7 percent. That would represent a slowdown from 8 percent last year.

Essilor added, however, that it was sticking to its target for a high level of profitability as it rolls out new products and sees "increasingly vibrant demand".

It achieved an operating margin of 18.3 percent in the first six months of the year, but did not give a full-year target.

Revenue rose 1.8 percent in the first half, or 3.7 percent excluding currency effects, to 2.58 billion euros ($3.44 billion), driven by sales of lenses in emerging markets.

That compared with the average of estimates in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S analyst poll of 2.62 billion.

Shares in Essilor were down 3.1 percent at 82.04 euros by 0815 GMT, the worst performance on the French blue-chip CAC 40 index. The stock has lost 7.5 percent in the last two weeks, giving the company a market value of 17.7 billion euros.

Essilor said it would launch a new lens that filters harmful rays from blue light, capitalise on growing demand for mid-range products and accelerate acquisitions in the second half.

"We have a very significant acquisition pipeline since this is one of the important growth drivers at Essilor, along with innovation," Chief Executive Hubert Sagnières told a conference call. The group has made 17 transactions so far this year.

The CEO said, however, that he had become more cautions on the timing of certain acquisitions, which could slip into 2014, as Essilor was taking more time over due diligence.

Essilor last month agreed to buy the 51 percent it does not already own in Transitions Optical, the inventor of modern variable-tint plastic lenses, from PPG Industries in a $1.73 billion deal.

The move is designed to help Essilor boost expansion in the photochromic lens market, which is growing twice as fast as the optical industry as a whole, mainly in Asia, Latin America and Europe.

"Over the longer term, the growth drivers in the optics market remain powerful and worldwide demand for improved visual health is expected to create many opportunities," Essilor said.

($1 = 0.7496 euros) (Reporting by James Regan and Noelle Mennella; Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Mark Potter)

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