UPDATE 2-Sonova tops forecast on new products, customer confidence

* H1 adjusted EBITA 174 mln Sfr vs forecast 161 mln

* Boosted by cost control, new products, returning customers

* Shares up 2.7% at market open (Adds CEO comments from call)

Nov 16 (Reuters) - Sonova, the world’s biggest hearing aid maker, beat first-half core profit forecasts on Monday, citing cost control, product launches and growing confidence among customers to return to stores.

The COVID-19 pandemic initially hit hearing aid makers as restrictions and fear of infection deterred patients from seeing doctors or audiologists, but many now seem more confident to seek treatment and visit stores, even as cases rise again.

“One thing we are observing when we compare the first wave with the second is that elderly people are a lot more comfortable to come to a store if you offer the right safety measures,” Chief Executive Arnd Kaldowski told Reuters.

Kaldowski said the return of customers meant Sonova was able to maintain targets for the second half of its fiscal year ending March 31, despite the rise in COVID-19 infection rates.

The CEO added the Swiss company’s hearing instruments business, which accounts for 90% of group revenues, also managed to win new customers as it increased its product range.

“A highlight during the period was the successful launch of the Phonak Paradise platform, which was very well received by the market,” the CEO said.

Phonak Paradise is a hearing aid that allows users to answer phone calls, stream music and use voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri. It can also can detect when the wearer is moving or having a conversation to adapt its noise cancelling settings.

Sonova said adjusted first-half earnings before interest, taxes and amortization (EBITA) came in at 174 million Swiss francs ($191 million), above the 161 million francs expected on average by analysts.

Its shares were up 2.7% at the market open, topping Switzerland’s mid cap index.

$1 = 0.9121 Swiss francs Reporting by Zuzanna Szymanska in Gdansk; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Mark Potter