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LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) - Anglo-Dutch information provider Reed Elsevier said it expected a year of underlying profit growth after demand for exhibitions and financial news helped it to beat first-half earnings forecasts.
Reed, Europe's largest media company by market cap, recorded underlying growth across all four of its major divisions in the six months to June 30.
The group, which provides content and analysis for professionals including doctors, lawyers, scientists and insurers, reported first-half revenue of 2.9 billion pounds ($4.9 billion) and adjusted operating profit of 860 million pounds, in line with forecasts.
Adjusted earnings per share at 27.8 pence topped a forecast of 27.1 pence.
The shares were up 2 percent and the top gainers on the FTSE 100 Index, giving Reed a market valuation of 20.9 billion pounds.
"The results should reinforce the view of Reed as a "safe" yet growing solid defensive name," Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker said, adding that he now recommended switching into Reed from Pearson, the education and media group which has suffered a series of earnings downgrades.
Reed is in the process of moving more of its content to digital platforms, where data can be more easily organised, searched and analysed.
The group said underlying revenue grew by 3 percent at its Scientific, Technical & Medical division and by 6 percent at its Risk Solutions Business, which provides data to clients in financial services.
Its Exhibitions division was up 8 percent and Legal, which has been hit by weakness in the United States and major European markets, was up 1 percent. Encouragingly for the Legal division, its margins improved due to portfolio changes and improvements to the way the division is run.
"Underlying trends in our business continue to be positive as we enter the second half, and we remain confident that we will deliver another year of underlying revenue, profit, and earnings growth," Chief Executive Erik Engstrom said.
($1 = 0.5874 British Pounds) (Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Li-mei Hoang)