Smith & Nephew rises again on rumours of J&J bid

Smith & Nephew is once again attracting takeover speculation. The health care group has aroused fervent interest on many occasions with Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, the US giants, invariably named as the most likely bidders.

The Americans are known to be anxious to expand. And they are particularly keen on Europe. With Smith's shares up 5p at 189.5p, a two-day gain of 9p, the J&J drum is being banged yet again.

The health care group's shares touched 203p last summer when takeover talk swept the stock market.

Smith's latest popularity comes at a time when the market has lost much of its enthusiasm. Like most health care groups Smith has exciting prospects with a myriad of products, from artificial knees to a tiny digital camera for orthopaedic surgery.

But dramatic profits growth is not expected. Around pounds 180m is the estimate for last year with pounds 198m this year.

Elsewhere worries about the world motor industry trapped shares of GKN. They suffered a 38p reverse as the market pondered whether their recent bullish run, which took them to an 861p peak, was justified.

Lucas Industries, off 5p at 193p, and Cowie, 5p to 312p, were others under pressure.

The motor industry was not the only stock market casualty as it expressed disappointment at the failure to cut interest rates and the non-appearance of the long awaited Footsie takeover bid.

Media shares, however, did their best to compensate for the lack of bid action.

United News & Media was the top performer as stories swirled that it had clinched a deal to sell its Daily and Sunday Express. The shares jumped 29p to 624p in busy trading. With talk of other deals on the launch pad and growing evidence that the wounding newspaper price war could be coming to an end also offering encouragement, Mirror Group Newspapers added 6.5p to 201p; News International 6p to 303p and The Telegraph 4p to 455p.

Pearson failed to hold its best level on break-up and bid rumours. The shares were at one time up 17p; they closed 5p higher at 685p.

Midland Independent Newspapers, the Birmingham Post group, was also actively traded with the shares gaining 8p to 153p. They have risen strongly this year. The company arrived on the market two years ago at 140p.

On the television pitch, Border rose 7p to 282p; HTV 3p to 349p; Scottish 18p to 594p and Yorkshire-Tyne Tees 21p to 847p.

Even the battered cable companies improved as Videotron, a Canadian group, said it would sell its UK side, which should cut competition.

The FT-SE 100 index, in lacklustre trading, fell 21.4 points to 3,726.1 although the supporting FT-SE 250 index displayed more resilience.

National Grid was a hesitant 197p, off 2.5p, on worries of more share sales with the US owners of regional electricity companies thought to be on the verge of cashing in.

Allied Domecq overcame some of the disappointment over its profit warning as bid and demerger hopes resurfaced. The shares gained 4.5p to 511p.

Frost, the petrol retailer, recovered a further 15p to 138p and MAID, the information group which has been under siege, managed a 9p revival to 162p.

Lloyds Chemists rose 23p to 467p as Gehe, the German group, duly produced its counter offer - at 450p a share. Unichem is expected to come back at around 475p.

Oriel, the insurance broker in bid talks, was firm at 149p; there is talk the offer could emerge near 200p.

Prowting, the builder, was at one time 25p off as it warned on profits. But the suspicion that Beazer, thwarted in its efforts to capture Ideal Homes, could switch its attention to Prowting helped a recovery to 102p, off 11p.

Courtaulds, the chemical group, suffered from Merill Lynch caution, falling 8p to 428p.

Argyll, the Safeway supermarket chain, at one time down 7.5p, rallied to close unchanged at 312p as Mees Pierson, the stockbroker, turned buyer. The group is due to make a trading statement next week and the Mees hunch is it will ease some of the gloom enveloping the supermarket sector.

John Waddington, the packaging group, fell 5p to 197p. Wise Speke, the stockbroker, placed 5.4 million shares at 190p with a clutch of institutions.

Manchester United was busy on hopes of a European League with the shares at one time up 18p. They closed at 221p, a 12p gain.

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