Smiths halts medical unit split to focus on ventilator production

(Reuters) - UK's Smiths Group SMIN.L said on Tuesday the separation of its medical unit will be delayed, as it focuses on making and delivering ventilators and critical-care devices to hospitals tackling the shortage of life-saving equipment as the coronavirus spreads.

Britain has ordered 10,000 ventilators from a consortium of leading aerospace, engineering and Formula One racing companies, which will start production this week in response to an urgent government call for industry to help save lives.

Smiths has been ramping up production of its Smiths Medical paraPAC plus, a lightweight and portable ventilator that helps remove strain from the lungs.

The separation of Smiths Medical, historically the group’s largest business, was due to be completed in the first half of this year. The British technology firm said it still intended to split the unit, but will wait until conditions improve.

The company also canceled its dividend payment and withdrew its 2020 forecast, and said it was looking at cutting costs, bracing for a drop in global demand for its other products.

Smiths said it was the company’s “understanding” that it should be eligible to access up to 600 million pounds ($739.92 million) of funding from the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Finance Facility.

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Sherry Jacob-Phillips