UPDATE 2-Nobel Biocare Q4 disappoints, eyes growth in 2010

* Q4 net profit falls to 27 mln euros, misses poll

* Says dental implant market may return to growth this year

* Proposes unchanged dividend of 0.55 Sfr per share

* Shares fall 4.88 pct, underperform sector index

(Adds details from conference call, analyst comment, shares)

By Katie Reid

ZURICH, Feb 10 (BestGrowthStock) – Swiss dental implant maker Nobel
Biocare (NOBN.VX: ) said the market may return to growth this
year, but cautioned visibility was still limited after it posted
a weaker-than-expected 31 percent drop in quarterly net profit.

Fourth-quarter net profit for the world’s largest maker of
dental implants slumped to 27 million euros ($37.01 million),
falling short of the average estimate of 29 million euros in a
Reuters poll. [ID:nLDE6140LN]

By 0941 GMT, shares in the group were trading 4.88 percent
lower, underperforming a near flat DJ Stoxx European healthcare
index (.SXDP: ) after rallying in the previous session on hopes
the results would yield a positive surprise.

“This did not materialise so investors are locking in their
profits,” a trader said.

Nobel Biocare’s sales performance was worse than it looked
at first glance once one-off items a year earlier were taken
into account, said Kepler Capital Markets analyst Florian
Gaiser.

This meant the group had underperformed competitors such as
Zimmer (ZMH.N: ), Biomet [LVBHAB.UL], Astratech and Sirona
(SIRO.O: ), he said.

Demand for dental implants shrunk during the crisis as
consumers scaled back on expensive treatments — a trend seen
across other parts of the medtech sector.

The dental implant market declined by about 7 percent last
year, Nobel Biocare said.

“We have indications that the dental implant market may
return to growth and we hope to perform along the lines of the
market,” Chief Executive Domenico Scala told reporters on a
conference call.

Scala cautioned visibility remained low, however, and said
conditions in its key markets, Spain and the United States, were
still tough as consumers remained cautious about spending.

Nobel Biocare has been hit harder by the global recession
than its main rival Straumann (STMN.S: ) because of its stronger
presence in the U.S. as well as its focus on more expensive,
larger-scale treatments.

Nobel Biocare’s sales fell 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter
to 155.7 million euros, trailing estimates.

Analysts will be looking for more clues about the health of
the industry when Straumann posts its full-year figures on Feb.
16. [ID:nLDE6181VZ]

Stock Trading

(Additional reporting by Rupert Pretterklieber; Editing by
Sharon Lindores)
($1=.7294 Euro)

UPDATE 2-Nobel Biocare Q4 disappoints, eyes growth in 2010