S&N: We're not in merger talks

Smith & Nephew Friday tried to put a stop to rumors that it was in merger talks following a report it was considering a deal with rival Biomet. That report had sent the company's stock higher, as Reuters notes.

"Smith & Nephew has a long-standing policy of not commenting on press speculation, unless there is a regulatory obligation to do so. However, exceptionally, Smith & Nephew wishes to clarify that it is not engaged in any discussions which could lead to a merger or a takeover," the company said in a statement issued through the London Stock Exchange.

The Daily Telegraph reported that S&N and Biomet were in talks. Biomet's owners--Blackstone, KKR, TPG and Goldman Sachs--have pondered the acquisition of S&N after laying out about $11 billion to buy the U.S. company in 2007. But, the levels of debt attached to Biomet ($5.9 billion) makes a cash acquisition would not be possible, creating the need for a highly complex merger structure, the Telegraph adds.

After the reports surfaced, S&N called off a meeting between chief executive David Illingworth and Biomet head Jeffrey Binder, according to the Telegraph. And despite the takeover speculation, an S&N spokesman insisted that the two chief executives were meeting simply to "shoot the breeze over industry issues." And now there are reports that some bankers believe Goldman Sachs has been appointed by Medtronic to prepare a counter bid.

Last week, S&N shares rose 9.5 percent after reports surfaced of an unsolicited takeover interest by Johnson & Johnson that valued the company at as much as £7.5 billion ($11.7 billion), according to the Wall Street Journal. S&N reportedly turned down that offer, which came last month.

Shares in the company rose some four percent in early trading, but the statement caused them to fall three percent. However, the price recovered, going up 3p, or 0.44 percent, as investors digested the comments, the Guardian notes.

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