Takeover talk health firm to report


Hip and knee replacement maker Smith and Nephew reports full year figures on Thursday amid takeover rumours

Companies including Smith & Nephew and Reckitt Benckiser will report results next week in another busy few days for investors.

Hip and knee replacement maker Smith & Nephew, which reports full year figures on Thursday, has seen its shares jump to all-time highs in recent weeks amid rumours of takeover interest.

Despite denials by S&N that it is in discussions, shares have remained at record highs as speculation refuses to die down. It is thought that S&N rejected a reported £7 billion approach from US rival Johnson & Johnson before Christmas, while privately owned American player Biomet is now said to be mulling a bid.

Many analysts are unconvinced that a bid will transpire, but are hopeful of trading for the year ahead.

Strong demand in emerging markets is expected to boost full-year results from household goods giant Reckitt Benckiser, which are due out on Wednesday. The Cillit Bang-to-Dettol firm said in November that it was targeting annual growth of 6% in revenues and a 16% rise in net income despite a lacklustre performance in Europe.

The Slough-based company, which recently completed its acquisition of Durex and Scholl owner SSL International, reported a 16% rise in third quarter profits to £426 million due to strong sales in emerging markets.

Revenues in Europe were flat at £843 million in the third quarter as the region – which accounts for 43% of total sales – suffered from increased competition and weak demand for laundry detergent, fabric conditioner and water softeners.

The market will also be looking for Reckitt’s views on the impact of rising raw material costs.

Consumer product firms have been hit by soaring commodity prices and Carex and Imperial Leather maker PZ Cussons revealed recently that it was impacting soap costs, with palm oil prices racing higher. This could have a bearing on Reckitt, given its personal care brands.

Investec Securities analyst Martin Deboo expects rising input prices to put Reckitt’s profit margins under pressure in 2011. He is forecasting 2010 pre-tax profits to rise by 21% to £2.3 billion, but to remain largely flat in the current financial year in the face of inflation and a cautious consumer environment.

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