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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ Bausch & Lomb Inc., boosted by strong sales of newer-style contact lenses, earned $8.8 million in the first quarter and beat Wall Street's forecasts.

The eye-care products maker said its net income for the quarter amounted to 16 cents a share, compared with a loss of $1 million, or 2 cents a share, in last year's first quarter.

Sales rose 3 percent to $414.2 million from $402.6 million.

Excluding one-time charges and accounting adjustments, the company reported comparable-basis earnings of $13.1 million, or 24 cents a share, from continuing operations.

That was 3 cents higher than the consensus estimate of 21 cents per share among analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call.

Bausch & Lomb also said it is halving its quarterly dividend to 13 cents to trim costs and boost investment. The new rate, to be paid to shareholders July 1, is ``more closely aligned with its own financial objectives and with the payout rates of its industry peers,'' the company said.

In the quarter, the company took a pretax charge of $23.5 million to write off assets and help pay for 700 job cuts targeted in January. The company employs about 12,000 people.

Revenues rose 4 percent in the United States, which accounts for 44 percent of its markets. Sales were flat in Europe and edged up 2 percent in Asia.

Contact lens revenues jumped 8 percent, with double-digit sales of newer planned-replacement and disposable lenses more than offsetting stagnant sales of older-style lenses. Sales of lens care products, which had been hurt by an inventory glut in the U.S. market last year, rose 3 percent.

Sales of refractive surgery products fell 9 percent as demand for laser vision-correction machines dipped in tandem with a downturn in the U.S. economy. Sales of cataract surgery products declined 7 percent but ophthalmic drugs revenues jumped 10 percent.

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On the Net:

http://www.bausch.com