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Guidant Keeps It Together

Sales fall 15% in the fourth quarter, but the company was prepared for worse.



, the medical-device maker hampered last year by product recalls, said sales fell 15% in the fourth quarter, but that wasn't as bad as the company had feared.

Based on unaudited data, the Indianapolis-based company expects to report sales of $828 million, including implanted defibrillator sales of $272 million in the U.S., a 23% decline.

The company was prepared for worse, however, following recalls of several pacemaker and defibrillator models in 2005. Overall sales surpassed Guidant's own estimates of $790 million to $820 million.

These results come as health care giant

Johnson & Johnson

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and medical-device maker

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Boston Scientific

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are vying to acquire Guidant, despite its device troubles.

Although Guidant's board of directors

officially supports an acquisition by J&J, which initially struck a deal to buy the company in December 2004, it has left room for a possible takeover offer by Boston. J&J's proposal values Guidant around $64 a share, while Boston would pay $72 a share.

Guidant also said in a press release Tuesday that it received a follow-up letter from the Food and Drug Administration regarding a

warning letter the agency had issued on its facility in St. Paul, Minn. The follow-up letter makes no new observations on the company's quality system, Guidant says.

After its due diligence on Guidant, Boston Scientific said it expected sales of the target company's cardiac-rhythm devices to continue falling through 2006 before recovering in 2007 and 2008.

Guidant shares tacked on 5 cents to $69.05, while Boston Scientific shares fell 27 cents to $25.61. J&J lost 10 cents to $62.89.