© Reuters. Philips Healthcare headquarters is seen in Best

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch health technology company Philips on Tuesday said it would increase returns to shareholders, as it expected sales growth to continue despite economic headwinds.

Philips, whose healthcare products range from high-tech toothbrushes to medical imaging systems, said comparable sales grew 5 percent to 5.6 billion euros ($6.4 billion)in the last three months of 2018, while core profit jumped 10 percent to 971 million euros, helped by strong demand for its hospital equipment in China, Latin America and Europe.

This beat analyst expectations for 5.5 billion euros in sales and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes and amortization (EBITA) of 960 million euros.

“We expect our performance momentum to improve in the course of the year,” Chief Executive Frans van Houten said in a statement, despite “geopolitical challenges and market volatility.”

Van Houten reaffirmed the company’s target for total comparable sales growth of 4 to 6 percent per year until 2020.

Philips, which spun off its lighting and consumer electronics divisions in recent years and is now purely focused on healthcare technology, said it would raise dividends by 6 percent, and announced a new share buyback program worth 1.5 billion euros.

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2019-01-28