May 3, 2018 / 1:54 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Fresenius sees Akorn lawsuit dragging on into 2019

* CEO says expects to resolve Akorn lawsuit in 2019

* Fresenius says court proceedings to start on July 9

* Q1 sales down 1 pct to 8.1 bln euro

* Net income 450 mln euro vs 437 mln f'cast in poll (Releads with Akorn comments)

BERLIN, May 3 (Reuters) - German healthcare group Fresenius SE said on Thursday its legal battle with Akorn over its cancelled $4.7 billion takeover could drag on into 2019 as it posted a slight decline in quarterly profit hurt by a strong euro.

Fresenius abandoned the merger agreement last month and on Wednesday alleged it uncovered "blatant fraud at the very top level" of the U.S. generic drugmaker.

Akorn spokeswoman Jennifer Bowles said at the time the company categorically disagreed with the allegations and intended to enforce the merger agreement.

Akorn has sued in Delaware Court of Chancery to try to hold Fresenius to the deal. A hearing is expected to take place on July 9, Fresenius told an analyst call.

"I don't want to speculate ... but you can assume that we will be able to resolve the matter over the course of 2019," Chief Executive Stephan Sturm said.

Sturm said Fresenius would seek alternative ways to grow its Kabi generics business in North America, but said the expansion would take longer without Akorn.

Shares in Fresenius, which have shed over 16 percent of their value over the past year, were trading down 1 percent at 64.48 euros by 1332 GMT.

Earlier on Thursday, Fresenius reported a 1 percent fall in first-quarter sales to 8.12 billion euros, broadly in line with the analysts' consensus forecast.

Net income slipped 2 percent to 450 million euros ($539 million), which surpassed the 437 million consensus forecast in a Reuters poll.

The company confirmed its forecast for sales to grow between 5 and 8 percent this year and for adjusted net income to rise between 6 and 9 percent. ($1 = 0.8343 euros) (Reporting by Elke Ahlswede, Caroline Copley and Ludwig Burger Editing by Edward Taylor/David Evans)

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