Smiths Group breakup saga may end with a whimper

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A picture shows the screen of a luggage scanner at the security check at Schoenefeld airport outside Berlin, April 27, 2011.

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LONDON, July 12 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Britain’s 6.4 billion pound Smiths Group (SMIN.L) has been a breakup candidate for the best part of a decade. It has four industrial divisions, which make everything from airport scanners to seals for oil pipelines, and a medical device business specialising in ventilators, syringes and needles. The company rebuffed a 2.45 billion pound offer for that unit from buyout group Apax in 2011, only to announce plans for a spinoff in 2018, which it then paused during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The saga may finally end under new Chief Executive Paul Keel , who according to the Mail on Sunday is in advanced talks with U.S. private equity group TA Associates about a 2 billion pound bid read more for the medical division. That’s below the 2.1 billion pounds JPMorgan analysts think it’s worth. Investors’ bigger gripe will be the slow progress: Smiths’s shares have trailed the Refinitiv Global Industrials Index by 20 percentage points since it announced the separation plans in 2018. The company’s glacial breakup is heading for a lacklustre conclusion. (By Liam Proud)

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Editing by Peter Thal Larsen and Karen Kwok

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