Change at the top for optimistic S&N

Elizabeth Fournier
PERENNIAL takeover target Smith & Nephew posted strong fourth-quarter profits yesterday, as chief executive David Illingworth announced he would be stepping down on 1 April, to be replaced by Olivier Bohuon.

Pre-tax profits for 2010 were up 33 per cent at the medical devices manufacturer, rising to $890m (£552m) from $670m the year before.

Sales were up at $4bn compared to $3.8bn in 2009, and earnings per share rose from $0.53 to $0.69.

The companies shares reacted well to the positive figures yesterday, closing 2.1 per cent up on the previous day at 727p.

Smith & Nephew has been the subject of various takeover rumours ­since the end of last year, with its share price reflecting the interest with a rise of more than 20 per cent since December.

Industry names Biomet, Johnson & Johnson, Zimmer and Stryker have all been touted as potential buyers, though Smith & Nephew said last month that it was not engaged in any talks that might lead to a takeover or merger.

Illingworth said that his departure was in no way linked to the speculation, and that he had no immediate plans to take on a role elsewhere.