BOC finally sells Ohmeda healthcare division for pounds 640m

Six months after putting its healthcare division, Ohmeda, up for sale, BOC, the industrial gases group, has finally sold it in a $1.05bn (pounds 640m) deal. The subsidiary is being bought by a consortium of buyers who will split the business between them.

Instrumentarium, based in Finland, has bought the medical systems and speciality products divisions for $494m; the medical devices division which makes catheters and other surgical aids has gone to Becton Dickinson for $452m; and Baxter International has paid $104m for the pharmaceutical products division which makes anaesthetics.

Most of the Ohmeda business is in the US, but there are factories in Sweden, Singapore and Swindon. No job losses are expected.

The healthcare businesses made operating profits of pounds 44.5m last year, 8 per cent of the BOC group total, but Ohmeda's contribution slipped from pounds 27m in the first half to pounds 18m in the second, and although the price is 19 times last year's earnings, it is well below most forecasts, some of which ranged as high as pounds 1bn. The price for the anaesthetics division was particularly disappointing, analysts said.

BOC will concentrate on its core businesses, the money will be used to reduce dollar debts and there are no plans to finance acquisitions or buy back shares, chief executive Danny Rosenkranz said yesterday.

BOC still faces problems caused by the strong pound and the crisis in east Asia, but the shares, which have fallen by a quarter since last summer, rose 18p to 882p, reflecting relief that the deal has been completed.