(Reuters) - General Electric Co's healthcare equipment unit expects strong sales growth in emerging markets and a moderate increase in the United States to offset a decline in Europe next year and allow an overall sales rise of 4 to 5 percent, a top executive said on Tuesday.
"It's a volatile environment right now, there's no doubt about that," said Tom Gentile, who heads GE's Healthcare Systems unit, which produces high-tech medical imaging machines.
"As we look at the markets we definitely see different rates of growth between the developed markets in the U.S. and Western Europe and the emerging markets elsewhere."
The company expects U.S. sales of healthcare equipment to rise by 3 percent to 5 percent in 2012, a slightly slower pace than the unit has maintained this year. It also expects another year of declines in Europe, where a sovereign debt crisis is causing governments to curb spending.
GE forecasts stronger growth in key emerging markets, with India expected up 15 percent, China seen up 12 to 13 percent and Latin America and Eastern Europe rising by 9 to 10 percent.
As emerging markets grow to represent a larger portion of GE Healthcare's overall revenue, the company is developing more devices aimed at those markets, with far lower price tags than the high-end models targeted at big U.S. hospitals.
However, the largest U.S. conglomerate has found that some of the lower-cost products it has developed are also selling well in richer Western countries.
"We have been able to take products we developed in China for China ... or from India and ... take them to the rest of the world," Gentile said, noting that the bulk of GE Healthcare's devices are manufactured in the United States.
Through the first nine months of the year, GE Healthcare's profit rose 6 percent to $1.85 billion on a 10 percent rise in revenue to $12.92 billion.
GE's health operations compete with Philips NV and Siemens AG.
(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston)