Hearing aid maker GN Store Nord suffers as rivals catch up

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[November 02, 2017] By Julie Astrid Thomsen

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Shares in GN Store Nord fell more than 5 percent on Thursday as slightly weaker-than-expected quarterly revenue stoked fears that rivals are catching up with its technology.

Market leader Sonova earlier this year launched a new hearing aid microchip capable of streaming audio directly from wireless devices, as the Swiss company tried to close a technology gap with its Danish competitor.

"The competitors are coming, but we can't focus on what they have in their bags," Chief Executive Anders Hedegaard told Reuters, adding it was important to constantly renew products in the $6 billion-a-year hearing aid market.

GN shares were down 5.0 percent at 200.5 Danish crowns at 0851 GMT, after third-quarter hearing aid sales growth slowed, due in part to disruptions caused by hurricanes in the United States, the company's biggest market.

Its GN Hearing division reported underlying growth of 6 percent, which disappointed analysts after the launch of its newest hearing aid, ReSound LiNX 3D, led to double-digit growth in May and June.

"GN Hearing has benefited from having very differentiated products compared to the competitors in the past couple of years but that has become more blurred now," Sydbank analyst Morten Imsgard said.

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The ReSound LiNX 3D hearing aid offers remote tuning and direct streaming from an Apple iPhone to the hearing aid, aiming to win over tech-savvy Baby Boomers.

Sonova now aims to compete on direct-streaming with a 2.4 GHz chip - which GN was first to present years ago - that enables direct streaming from not just Apple but other Bluetooth-equipped devices as well.

GN posted third-quarter revenue of 2.28 billion Danish crowns ($357 million) slightly lower than analysts' average forecast of 2.30 billion, according to a Reuters poll.

(Reporting by Julie Astrid Thomsen; Editing by Mark Potter)

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