* Sees revenue growth, high operating margin in 2013
* Net profit up 15.5 pct to 584 mln eur
* Sales rise 19 pct to 4.99 bln eur
* Shares up more than 7pct, hit record high (Adds CEO comments)
By Elena Berton
PARIS, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Essilor the world’s largest maker of opthalmic lenses, said the rapid growth of the middle classes in emerging countries would lift sales this year, marking the success of its international expansion.
Its shares jumped more than 7 percent to a record high.
The French-based company - whose products range from reading glasses selling in India for the equivalent of a few euros to costly high-performance lenses - reported a rise in 2012 profits and sales on demand from emerging markets such as China, India and Mexico.
While sales in austerity-hit Europe grew 2.6 percent on a comparable basis, they rose 12 percent in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and 13 percent in Latin America, Essilor said on Thursday.
“Essilor is confident in its ability to deliver another year of revenue growth and high operating margins,” it said in a statement.
Chief Executive Hubert Sagnieres told reporters he expected sales including the effect of acquisitions to grow over 7 percent in 2013, while operating margins should remain stable at around 17.9 percent.
Renaud Murail, fund manager at Barclays Bourse, said Essilor’s confident outlook stood out amid economic uncertainties and a stock market uncertainty caused by the deadlock after the Italian election.
“These are good results. Once we look at growth outside the euro zone, Essilor is a prime example, especially as it doesn’t seem to have any signs of trend reversal,” he said.
Essilor shares, which have gained around 24 percent in the last 12 months, were the best performers on Paris’ blue chip CAC 40 index at 1248 GMT, trading 7.5 percent higher at 80.26 euros and hitting their highest ever at 80.79 euros.
The company, which also makes instruments used by opticians and ophthalmologists, secured 24 partnerships or bolt-on acquisitions in 2012 and plans to continue its acquisition drive to bolster growth. Last year it also entered several countries for the first time, including Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Togo.
“We would be disappointed if our organic sales growth weren’t around 5 percent [this year],” Sagnieres said.
Net profit rose 15.5 percent to 584 million euros ($765 million) as sales increased 19 percent to 4.99 billion, matching the ThomsonReuters I/B/E/S consensus.
On a comparable basis, sales rose 5.2 percent in 2012, in line with Essilor’s guidance of at least 5 percent growth.
Net margin narrowed slightly to 11.7 percent from 12.1 percent the previous year.
The company will pay a dividend of 0.88 euros per share, up from 0.85 euros in 2011. ($1 = 0.7628 euros) (Additional reporting by Matthias Blamont and Alexandre Boksenbaum-Granier; Editing by Christian Plumb and David Holmes)