Smiths Group yesterday named a new chief executive - but said his track record for selling companies did not signal plans for spin-offs or a takeover in the near future.
Smiths said former Allied Domecq chief executive Philip Bowman would replace long-time chief executive Keith Butler-Wheelhouse on December 10.
Mr Bowman was chief executive of Allied Domecq when it was taken over by Pernod Ricard and chief executive at Scottish Power when it was bought by Spanish utility Iberdrola in a deal approved this year.
Smiths sold its main aerospace business, which included plants in Cheltenham and Wolverhampton, for $4.8 billion (#2.37 billion) to US giant GE in January, triggering brokerage analyst speculation that the rest of the company, likely as individual units, might be put up for sale.
That speculation has boosted Smiths shares, which were yesterday up nearly five per cent, among the biggest early gainers on the FTSE 100 index.
Smiths also released annual results that were in line with expectations as it posted an operating profit of #348 million, little changed from #345 million a year earlier.
The headline figure excluded exceptional items, amortisation of acquired intangible assets and financing gains or losses from currency hedging.
Revenues for the year to July 31 slipped #19 million to #2.161 billion and the company raised its proposed dividend to 34 pence from 31.35p.
Mr Butler-Wheelhouse denied brokerage and media speculation that the sale of its aerospace division would lead to more spin-offs.
"We'd like to continue with the three businesses, they are very strong," Mr Butler-Wheelhouse said on a conference call, in reference to its medical equipment, specialty engineering and detection equipment divisions.
"I see no reason" for spin-offs, he said. But asked what he thought Mr Bowman might do, he added: "As long as it will create shareholder value, he will do whatever's best for the company."
Shareholders pocketed a #2.1 billion payout following the sale of Smiths' aerospace business. Mr Butler-Wheelhouse departs after news last week that Smiths had failed to forge a planned joint venture in detection with GE.
In reaction to yesterday's announcement, Dresdner Kleinwort said Smiths Group's results were broadly in line with the close period statement, but said it felt that the key piece of news was confirmation that Mr Butler-Wheelhouse is stepping down to be replaced by Mr Bowman.
The broker therefore raised its price target to 1,200 pence from 1,100 and placed its recommendation under review.
Elsewhere, UBS said it believes the chief executive change could ignite the break-up of the group, given Philip Bowman has a track record of selling businesses.
It repeated its 'buy' stance and sum-of-the-parts-based price target of 1,150 pence.
Finally, Evolution repeated its 'buy' rating and 1,271 pence price target as it feels the appointment of Philip Bowman as chief executive will inevitably intensify the debate on the future shape of the group.
Meanwhile, Smith's new hi-tech airport X-ray screening machines - which could pave the way for a relaxation in hand luggage regulations - have begun to be introduced at major UK airports.
The new machines incorporate an Advanced Threat Identification X-ray (aTiX), which can automatically detect explosives and liquid.
Airport operator BAA yesterday showed off one of the machines at Heathrow's new Terminal 5 and announced it had already installed 11 at the west London airport.
More of the machines, which should enable passengers to pass more quickly through airport security, will be rolled out at Heathrow over the next few months. And eventually BAA will have the new machines at all seven of its UK airports, which include Gatwick, Stansted and Glasgow.