July 27, 2011 / 6:49 AM / in 6 years

UPDATE 3-Wolters Kluwer H1 hit by weak European markets

* To sell pharma unit, take 106 mln euro impairment charge

* Expects to sell pharma in pieces, seeks bolt-on deals -CEO

* H1 core profit 325 mln euro, vs 333 mln euros in RTRS poll

* H1 revenue 1.619 bln euro, vs 1.731 bln euros in RTRS poll

* Reiterates 2011 financial targets

* Shares down 2.4 pct, vs 0.5 pct fall in Amsterdam index

(Adds CEO comment on divestment, bolt-on deals)

By Roberta B. Cowan

AMSTERDAM, July 27 (Reuters) - Dutch publisher Wolters Kluwer NV (WLSNc.AS) reported slightly lower than expected first-half core profit, citing a tough European market, and said it would sell its pharmaceutical unit.

The group, whose specialist publications and databases are used by doctors, lawyers, bankers and accountants, said it would still meet its full-year expectations, with markets in North America and Asia continuing to improve while the pace of recovery in Europe would be slow.

The company’s shares fell 2.4 percent in morning trade on Wednesday, underperforming Amsterdam’s AEX index, which was down 0.5 percent.

It did not give a value for the pharmaceutical unit, but said it would take a 106 million euro non-cash charge on the divestment, which is expected to close by year-end.

One analyst who declined to be named put a rough value of 100 million euros on the pharma unit and described it as a low-growth, low-margin business.

Chief Executive Nancy McKinstry told Reuters the pharma unit would be sold in pieces, not as a single entity, and that any subsequent acquisitions would be bolt-on buys rather than transformational deals.

Analysts welcomed the decision to streamline the health business and bring in some cash.

“Selling pharma looks good; it shows proactive management of the portfolio,” said Paul Gooden, an analyst from RBS in London.

McKinstry told CNBC the firm would continue to invest in the health business, which provides clinical support and content to doctors and nurses.

“With these strategic changes and our first half-year results, we are confident that we will deliver on our expectations for the full year,” McKinstry said in a statement.

Wolters Kluwer’s main rivals are Anglo-Dutch publishing and exhibitions group Reed Elsevier and Thomson Reuters Corp , both of which report earnings on Thursday.

Wolters Kluwer reported sales of 1.619 billion euros, up 1 percent from a year ago. Revenue was boosted by a 14 percent rise in sales at the division, which compiles publications for the financial services sector.

The health and pharma unit, which provides medical content and computer software for doctors, nurses and pharmacists, reported a 4 percent rise in first-half sales to 295 million euros.

Two divisions -- one of which provides software and data for tax lawyers, accountants and auditing departments, while the other supplies information for governments, law firms and banking regulators -- reported slowing sales, citing challenging market conditions in the United States and Europe.

The two divisions account for almost 70 percent of group sales.

Earnings before interest, tax, and amortisation (EBITA), excluding exceptional items, were flat at 325 million euros, below analysts’ expectations for 333 million euros, and at the bottom end of the range of estimates.

The firm reiterated its 2011 guidance for an EBITDA margin of 20.5 percent to 21 percent, free cash flow of 425 million euros and earnings per share between 1.50 euros and 1.55 euros.

In May, Wolters Kluwer said its key U.S. and European markets were improving and that it was looking for acquisitions in higher-growth emerging markets.

McKinstry said on Wednesday that the firm would continue to invest heavily in those markets.

Wolters Kluwer said revenue from subscriptions and electronic products continued to grow in the first half of the year and, as expected, print publications continued to decline, though the rate of decline was lessening each year.

Wolters Kluwer has said that by the end of 2012 it aims to derive more than 75 percent of group revenue from online or electronic products, reducing its dependence on printed publications. That compares with 49 percent of revenue when the online transition was launched at the end of 2008. (Editing by Sara Webb and Will Waterman)

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