Smiths Group has £1bn for acquisitions

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The Independent Online

Smiths Group, the aerospace to X-ray machines supplier, has amassed a £1bn war chest to expand its fast-growing detection and medical systems divisions.

The company, now the world's biggest manufacturer of equipment for detecting explosives, weapons and drugs at airports and ports, said it was on the lookout for one big transforming deal or a series of smaller bolt-on acquisitions.

Smiths has disposed of £1.6bn of businesses in the past five years and spent £1bn on takeover deals, the biggest of which was last year's £500m acquisition of the US medical equipment company Medex.

Keith Butler-Wheelhouse, Smiths' chief executive, said medical equipment was a $7bn (£4bn) market growing at 5 per cent a year, which offered huge scope for the group to expand.

Smiths is working on an airport security scanner to pinpoint explosives in hand baggage and is developing a walk-through screening system which takes whole-body images to check for hidden weapons. Profit before tax for the six months to the end of January rose 11 per cent to £179m. Aerospace profits slipped £2m to £43m.