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Baxter Profit Tops Forecast

It guides 2006 mostly in line.
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Income from continuing operations rose 177% from a year ago in


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fourth quarter, with a writedown weighing down the year-ago results.

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Baxter earned $294 million, or 46 cents a share, from continuing operations in the latest quarter, including a charge of 14 cents a share related to product withdrawals and other issues. Adjusted for that, Baxter's earnings from continuing operations rose 5% to $379 million, or 60 cents a share, beating estimates by 2 cents.

Baxter earned $106 million, or 17 cents a share, from continuing operations last year, including a $289 million pretax impairment charge.

Sales fell 4% from a year ago to $2.49 billion, missing the Thomson First Call estimate of $2.54 billion. The company said sales fell 3% excluding foreign exchange translation. Domestic sales fell 11% to $1.1 billion, while international sales rose 2% to $1.4 billion.

"As the company expected, sales were lower in the fourth quarter primarily due to the hold on shipments of the Colleague Infusion Pump, the effect of exiting several lower-margin businesses and the impact of generic competition for propofol, an anesthetic agent. Offsetting these items was solid sales growth in Baxter's BioScience business, with sales totaling $1.0 billion, an increase of 6% (or 8% excluding the impact of foreign currency) compared to the fourth quarter of 2004," it said.

Baxter expects to earn 41 cents to 43 cents a share from continuing operations before special items in the first quarter; analysts were expecting 43 cents a share. For 2006, Baxter expects to earn $2.08 to $2.16 a share; analysts were forecasting $2.16 a share.