UPDATE 1-Hearing aid group Demant expects strong growth in 2021

(Adds CEO comments, details)

COPENHAGEN, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Hearing aid maker Demant expects to return to strong growth in 2021 as COVID-19 lockdowns are lifted, the firm said on Tuesday after reporting earnings for the second half of 2020 above expectations, sending its shares up more than 9%.

Demant’s sales took a hard hit in the first half of 2020, as customers were unable to visit audiologists and get hearing aids fitted during the pandemic. But it said a better second half of the year, when some audiologists reopened before COVID-19 cases surged anew, partly offset those losses.

The Danish company now expects revenue to grow organically by between 23% and 27% this year, and earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to come in between 2.85-3.15 billion Danish crowns ($511.73-462.99 million).

“Our business is showing good resilience, despite abnormal hearing healthcare market conditions, and all our business areas are ready to capture market shares,” Chief Executive Soren Nielsen said.

Annual organic sales shrunk by 3% to 14.5 billion crowns in 2020, while operating profit for the year dropped 29% to 1.5 billion.

“With our proven business model in place and vaccines rolling out, I take an optimistic view on the coming year,” Nielsen added.

Demant said operating profit stood at 1.51 billion Danish crowns ($245.23 million) between July and December, above a 1.40 billion forecast from analysts in a Refinitiv poll.

The company said it would make share buy-backs in 2021 worth more than 2 billion crowns.

Its shares were up 9.4% at 0810 GMT.

$1 = 6.1556 Danish crowns Reporting by Tim Barsoe; Editing by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Pravin Char