* Shares rise to all-time high
* Recurring core profit 50.4 mln vs 45 mln expected
* Says starts strategic review of two units (Adds detail on strategic review, share reaction, analyst comment)
BRUSSELS, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Belgian medical equipment maker Arseus is optimistic on prospects for the second half following a rise of nearly a third in core profits in the first half of 2013, sending its shares to an all-time high.
Profits were up because of a strong performance from the group’s biggest business Fagron, which makes medical ingredients for pharmacists.
Fagron, which made up three quarters of first-half core profit, increased profit margins by 3.9 percentage points to 24.5 percent. Fagron’s increasing scale helped it negotiate lower prices with its suppliers and it sold more specialised products at higher prices.
Arseus said these trends should drive margins going forward.
“We’re very happy with the way that profit margins have grown,” Chief Executive Ger van Jeveren said in an interview on Friday. “In any case they should at least stay where they are but I think we can do even better in the second half of the year,” he said.
Overall, the group said it expected healthy organic growth in 2013, with profits growing faster than sales, boosting margins.
Arseus’s core profit margins, adjusted for one-off items, rose to 17.8 percent in the first-half from 14.5 percent in the same period last year.
The company’s shares rose as much as 13.2 percent, hitting an all-time high of 22.44 euros.
“The biggest part of today’s spike is the strong results which confirm the strong results of the second half of 2012,” said KBC Securities analyst Jan De Kerpel
Recurring core profit (REBITDA) rose 29.9 percent in the first-half of 2013 to 50.4 million euros ($66.70 million). That was better than the 45 million euros expected in a Reuters poll.
Arseus said its board was considering options for the group’s Healthcare Solutions and Healthcare Specialities divisions, where sales fell in the first half.
Healthcare Solutions, which makes everything from dentists’ chairs to wipes and syringes for hospitals, had a 5.2 percent drop in sales in the first half as dentists were slow to spend because of uncertainty currently over the reimbursement of dental charges.
This also affected Healthcare Specialties, which makes products for dental labs, which reported a 4.3 percent fall in revenues.
The group said it hoped it could complete the review and act upon it before the end of the year.
“I think selling the units would lead to an impairment, I don’t believe they can sell the units for the value at which they have them in the books,” KBC’s De Kerpel said.
$1 = 0.7557 euros Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek. editing by Jane Merriman