* FY 2013 operating profit 1.78 bln DKK vs 1.81 bln forecast
* Sees EPS growth of 5-10 pct in 2014, below market estimates
* Shares trading 4.2 pct lower at 0931 GMT
* Says to join Apple’s “made for iPhone” programme
COPENHAGEN, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The world’s second-biggest hearing aid maker, Denmark’s William Demant, reported a slightly weaker than forecast 2013 operating profit and 2014 earnings outlook on Thursday, sending its shares down more than 4 percent.
Sales in the company’s important mid-price range product segment were hurt last year as its closest competitors, Swiss Sonova and Danish GN Store Nord, broke with the usual launch cycle and released new product lines in all price categories at the same time.
William Demant said it hopes to catch up with its peers with recent product launches in the lower price segments.
“The many product launches in 2013 and 2014 should put us in a relatively stronger position than the competition in the following quarters,” it said.
But its outlook for earnings to grow 5 to 10 percent this year was lower than analysts’ estimates in a Reuters poll. Bernstein Research said in a note to clients that the outlook “will be viewed as a disappointment as consensus was forecasting EPS growth of 13-14 percent”.
William Demant’s operating profit (EBIT) for 2013 rose 7.9 percent to 1.78 billion Danish crowns ($326 million), below an average 1.81 million crowns estimate in a Reuters poll. .
Its shares were down 4.2 percent at 514 crowns at 0931 GMT.
The company said it will join Apple’s “Made for iPhone” programme this spring. It will use a system where the connection between the hearing aid and the iPhone goes through a separate transmitter, typically worn around the neck.
Danish competitor GN Store Nord, the world’s fourth-biggest hearing aid maker, this week launched the first “made for iPhone” hearing aid in collaboration with Apple. Analysts say its product has a cosmetic advantage as it inserts the technology into the hearing aid itself, although some say this reduces sound quality.
“William Demant is entering the scene with a device not as elegant as GN Store Nord‘s. I am inclined to the view that GN has the upper hand,” Sydbank analyst Morten Imsgard said.