* 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 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
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
"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)