UPDATE 1-Straumann lifts full-year sales forecast
* Q3 sales 155 mln Sfr, in line with Reuters poll f'cast
* North America drives growth, Europe still a drag
* Expects full-year revenue in line with prior year (Adds CEO comments, details)
ZURICH, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Swiss dental implant maker Straumann raised its full-year sales forecast on Thursday, as it expects a better performance in North America and Japan to offset weak sales in Europe.
The world's largest maker of dental implants now forecasts full-year organic revenue, which strips out the impact of currency and acquisitions, to be at least in line with 2012. It had previously guided for a shortfall in full-year revenues.
"We had a stronger development in some markets than we anticipated after two quarters, mainly North America, but we've also seen a relatively strong quarter in Asia-Pacific in Japan," Chief Executive Marco Gadola told Reuters.
But he added Europe, where the company makes more than half of its revenues, will stay difficult, especially in its largest markets, Italy, Spain and Germany.
Third-quarter sales slipped 1 percent to 155 million Swiss francs ($173 million) hit by a sharp slide in the Japanese yen. Analysts on average had also forecast sales of 155 million Swiss francs in a Reuters poll.
Stripping out currency effects and the discontinuation of its intra-oral scanner distribution business sales rose 3.1 percent.
Premium implant makers like Straumann and local rival Nobel Biocare have been hit by weak consumer confidence in Europe, as cash-strapped consumers cut back on non-essential dental treatment or trade down to cheaper brands.
Straumann wants to become a global leader in the value segment of the market, which is growing at a faster pace than the premium segment. Last year, it bought a 49 percent stake in Brazil's Neodent.
Earlier this month, Straumann acquired a 51 percent stake in Medentika, a German manufacturer of lower-priced dental prosthetics and Gadola said the company could spend up to 300 million Swiss francs on further buys.
The company has launched its Neodent brand in Spain and Gadola said Straumann's priority would be to establish a presence in big value markets such as Italy and the United States. It is also looking at opportunities in Asia-Pacific.
Sales in Europe fell 3.1 percent in the third quarter to 80 million francs, hurt by weakness in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Iberia.
However, sales in North America sustained momentum, and were up 9 percent excluding the impact of currency and the discontinuation of the intra-oral scanner business.
The stock, which has risen 54 percent so far in 2013, trades at 22.2 times forward earnings, a discount to Nobel Biocare's 26.5 times. ($1 = 0.8965 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
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