Dutch health technology company Philips has reported a 6% rise in first-quarter core earnings, but missed analysts' expectations on bleak sales growth. 

A decline in demand for hospital equipment in Europe and flat sales in the US capped overall comparable sales growth to 2%, despite upbeat numbers in China and other emerging markets. 

The company's core profit came in at €364m, compared with €344m the same time the previous year. 

Analysts polled for Reuters had expected adjusted earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation (EBITA) of €371m, while comparable sales missed expectations of a 2.4% growth. 

The company reaffirmed its target for total comparable sales growth of 4-6% a year until 2020. 

"We continue to expect our performance momentum to improve over the course of the year, supported by our order book," the company's chief executive Frans van Houten said. 

Philips reported sales growth of 2-5% for its two largest businesses - hospital equipment and personal healthcare products. 

Sales of its connected care division, which specialises in remote patient monitoring, dropped 1%. 

Once a sprawling conglomerate, Philips has transformed itself into a health technology specialist in recent years, shedding its consumer electronics and lighting divisions.