J&J in talks to buy Synthes

JOHNSON & Johnson is in talks to buy Swiss medical device manufacturer Synthes, the world’s largest maker of surgical implants to treat bone fractures and spinal injuries, for about $20bn (£12.2bn).

Synthes, based in West Chester, Pennsylvania (US), trades on the Swiss Exchange. With its current market capitalisation of $18.4bn (£11.2bn), the deal would be the largest acquisition ever made by J&J in its 125-year history, and it would allow the American pharmaceutical company to further develop its medical devices division.

J&J, already the world’s biggest maker of artificial hips, saw its prosthesis segment achieve sales of $24.6bn (£15bn) in 2010, representing an increase of 4.4 per cent over 2009.

The medical devices division now accounts for 40 per cent of J&J’s $61.6bn (£37.7bn) total sales, eclipsing the company’s pharmaceutical business, historically its largest segment.

The deal, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Friday, is still in its preliminary stages and talks have been described as “fragile”, with J&J spokesman Bill Price refusing to comment “on speculations.”