* Q1 operating loss 6.0 mln euros, vs 4.9 mln loss forecast
* Says cautiously optimistic for 2009
* Shares rise 3.2 percent
(Adds share price, analyst comment)
BRUSSELS, April 22 (Reuters) - Belgian display and visual systems company Barco BAR.BR swung to a first-quarter operating loss as demand from corporate clients remained weak, but it expressed cautious optimism about the rest of 2009.
Chief executive Eric Van Zele, appointed in January, said in a statement on Wednesday that the company’s focus on reducing costs and working capital had paid off.
It ended the quarter with a net cash position of 24 million euros ($31 million), against net debt of 32.8 million euros at the end of the fourth quarter.
“The results of the cost-cutting efforts and working capital focus are impressive,” KBC analyst Nico Melsens said in a note to clients.
At 0840 GMT, Barco stock was up 3.2 percent at 15.25 euros, after rising as much as 6.3 percent. The wider Belgian midcap index .BELM was 0.6 percent higher.
Barco reported a 6.0 million euro loss before interest and tax for the three months to end-March, versus a consensus forecast for a 4.9 million loss in a Reuters poll of three analysts.
Order recovery in March was strong, however, after a weak January and February order intake. Barco said it saw good order intake for digital cinema projectors and expected the digital cinema business to continue to grow over the next quarters.
The order book at the end of March stood at 367 million euros, up 12 percent year-on-year. (Reporting by Antonia van de Velde; Editing by Dale Hudson and Dan Lalor) ($1 = 0.7738 euro)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.