Thales says remains upbeat on emerging markets

PARIS Thu Feb 20, 2014 4:43am EST

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PARIS Feb 20 (Reuters) - France's Thales said on Thursday recent currency weakness in Australia, Canada and Britain weighed on its profit forecast for 2014 but downplayed concerns over emerging markets.

Europe's largest defence electronics firm is forecasting 5-7 percent growth in 2014 operating profit, but says the target would be 1.5 percentage points higher without currency factors.

Chief Executive Jean-Pierre Levy said recent falls in the three key Western markets outside France accounted for the drag on the company's profit forecast.

Thales officials said they were confident about the long-term growth of developing markets, where the company is seeking significant growth to compensate for weakness in domestic defence markets as it tries to jolt overall revenues higher.

Levy said the company had carried out a thorough internal study in late 2013 of 10 emerging markets that he did not identify and found "numerous" opportunities for growth, particularly in security and public or air transport.

He reiterated that acquisitions are "not at the centre" of the French group's strategy, but that it would look at any opportunities that arose.

Emerging markets make up 22 percent of Thales revenues. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Andrew Callus)

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