Market Hears Cochlear Loud And Clear

Cochlear was another company to receive a volatile reception to what looked a decent result for the 2007 year.

Investors saw the result, said whoopee and chased the shares all the way to $65 from the opening $62, before they sank back to $61.81. They then bounced back over $63 to $63.25 and a solid $1.44 gain on a weak day's trading.

The cause of all this fuss: Cochlear's (COH) reported a full-year net profit of $100.13 million, up 25% on the 2006 figure.

The company said ''core earnings" were up 24 per cent to $107.56 million for 2006-07, which it said "exceeded its guidance of $100 million".

"This strong result was in the context of a rising Australian dollar and reflects Cochlear's continued market leadership combined with a disciplined approach to growth," the company told investors.

"Total revenue for the year was $559.4 million, a 24% increase over 2006.

"Record cochlear implant (CI) unit sales for the year of 15,947 units represented an increase of 24% over 2006."

Sales revenue from the Cochlear implant system product range increased 26% to $480.2 million.

Sales in the Bone Anchored Solutions division were $62.7 million, a 21% increase over last year.

Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) was $150.2 million, a 35% increase over F06, and 26.8% of revenues (2006 24.7%).

So that pointed to a rise in gross profit margin, meaning there was a sharper rise in EBIT than there was in sales. The culprit was the stronger Australian dollar during the year, especially the second half.

Growth in net profit of 24%-25% was noticeably slower than the 35% rise in EBIT

Final dividend of 70 cents share was up 27% on 2006 and brought the full year dividend to $1.25, that's up 25% on 2006.

Earnings per share were $1.82.9c, up 25% from $1.46.8c

Looking ahead to fiscal 2008, the company said another solid year was forecast.

"The outlook is for continued core earnings growth of approximately 15 to 20 per cent, depending on the strength and rapidity of the Australian dollar's appreciation," Cochlear said.

"The momentum with which we ended the year gives us confidence about our future ability to help the hearing impaired in a way that delivers sustainable growth for our shareholders.

"Our confidence is further reinforced by the implantation rate remaining less than incidence, meaning growth in our potential market continues to outpace our own growth."

Cochlear chief executive, Dr Chris Roberts, said the result was "very pleasing" and all geographic regions had contributed to the company's performance.

The Americas saw a 26% rise in revenue to $249.8 million, Europe posted a 23% rise in sales to $213 million, and Asia Pacific saw sales grow 34% to $80.1 million.

"This was underpinned by strong growth across the region, particularly in China, India, Korea and Australia," the company said.

The company lifted its research and development spend 12% to $63.8 million.

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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