February 20, 2019 / 6:09 AM / 6 months ago

Fresenius expects earnings to stagnate in 2019 as investments weigh

BERLIN, Feb 20 (Reuters) - German healthcare group Fresenius said sales growth would slow and profit stagnate this year as investments to fix the performance at its German hospitals business and build up home dialysis take a toll.

Fresenius, which makes generic infusion drugs and operates hospitals and dialysis clinics, expects sales to rise between 3 and 6 percent this year compared to 6 percent last year, while profit should stagnate at around the same level as 2018.

In the fourth quarter, sales rose 7 percent to 8.8 billion euros ($10 billion), matching the top end of forecasts in a Reuters poll, while adjusted net income increased 6 percent to 504 million euros, in line with expectations.

Its German hospital business is facing headwinds from uncertainty around new minimum staffing laws, a shift to more outpatient treatments and disruption caused by its move to develop clusters for procedures.

At the same time, its separately-listed dialysis business, Fresenius Medical Care, is grappling with a lower percentage of patients on higher paying insurance schemes and plans to ramp up investments in home dialysis.

In the 2020-2023 period, Fresenius is targeting a compound annual organic sales growth rate of 4-7 percent while net income should increase by 5-9 percent in the same period.

$1 = 0.8821 euros Reporting by Caroline Copley; editing by Thomas Seythal

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