* 2012 earnings higher than average in Reuters poll
* Forecasts growth to slow in 2013
* China orders boost entertainment division sales
* Shares open up 2.8 pct
BRUSSELS, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Belgium visual display technology company Barco reported a higher than expected 24 percent increase in 2012 net profit on Thursday and forecast growth this year albeit at a slower pace.
Strong orders from the growing Chinese cinema market buoyed sales of digital cinema projectors, the market which has been the engine of the company’s growth for the last three years.
The company said it had expanded market share there and also in Latin America and begun sales of projectors for IMAX , which now has over 100 theatres in China.
Barco shares opened up 2.8 percent, making them among the strongest performers on Euronext Brussels.
Stronger sales in the company’s entertainment division were bolstered by gains in its next largest divisions -- healthcare and control rooms. However, orders at both declined, against a 6.4 percent rise for entertainment.
Barco said it expected to continue to generate profitable growth, but at a slower pace than in 2012. Barco’s order book stood at 461.2 million euros ($624.4 million) at the end of the year, 3.9 percent lower than at the close of 2011.