updated 1/23/2006 3:07:37 PM ET 2006-01-23T20:07:37

With a deadline of Tuesday night looming for Johnson & Johnson to raise its bid or let rival Boston Scientific acquire coveted heart device maker Guidant Corp., many analysts were expecting a J&J move late Monday or before the stock market opens Tuesday.

That's because the world's most diversified health care company is to report fourth-quarter and 2005 year-end earnings at a Tuesday morning meeting likely to be packed with analysts.

"It's already getting down to the 11th hour," said CIBC World Markets analyst John Calcagnini. "If I had to bet one way or the other, I would bet that they're going to raise their bid."

Natick, Mass.-based Boston Scientific is offering about $27.2 billion, or $80 per share for Indianapolis-based Guidant, whose board last Tuesday declared that pitch superior to J&J's last offer: $24.2 billion, or $71 per share. New Brunswick-based J&J has until Tuesday night to make a counteroffer; Guidant's board has until Wednesday to accept Boston Scientific's offer.

J&J spokesman Marc Monseau declined comment Monday.

Despite a rash of lawsuits and regulatory investigations since Guidant began issuing warnings and recalls for nearly 300,000 pacemakers and heart defibrillators in June, Boston Scientific last month started a bidding war for Guidant.

Independent pharmaceuticals analyst Hemant Shah of HKS & Co. said he could not recall Johnson & Johnson ever getting into a bidding war before or even failing to complete a planned acquisition.

"J&J's a pretty disciplined company," he said.

Pacemakers and implantable defibrillators are seen as a crucial new market by J&J and Boston Scientific. The market is projected to grow 15 percent per year, fueled by aging baby boomers and evidence the devices can help more types of heart patients. Guidant could have a new drug-coated stent ready for U.S. sales late next year, and J&J and Boston Scientific compete fiercely on that product, which keeps arteries open after blockages are cleared.

Shah said J&J needs Guidant because very few companies have such products or infrastructure, and they don't face competition from generic products after several years, as medicines do.

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