Baxter International

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reported better-than-expected earnings for the latest quarter, but sales came in just below estimates.

The company earned $374 million, or 57 cents a share, compared with $116 million, or 18 cents a share in 2005, and ahead of its previous guidance of between 55 cents and 57 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thompson First Call expected Baxter to earn 55 cents a share.

However, earnings more than tripled from a year ago due to a third quarter 2005 charge of $180 million, or a 29 cents a share.

Baxter's worldwide sales were up 7% to $2.56 billion during the quarter. Analysts were expecting sales of $2.58 billion. U.S. sales were $1.1 billion, up 3% from last year. International sales were up 9% to $1.5 billion.

Sales within the Baxter's bioscience business were up 15% to $1.1 billion, and sales in its renal division rose 6% to $519 million. Generic drug competition impacted Baxter's medication delivery sales slightly, taking off 1% in sales to $950 million.

"I'm particularly pleased with the continued and balanced improvement in margins across all of our businesses. This is a strength of our diversified model, and provides leverage for us to continue to accelerate investments to grow our company," said Robert Parkinson Jr. Baxter's chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement.

For the fourth quarter, Baxter expects sales to grow 7% to 8%, with 60 cents to 62 cents in earnings per share before special items. For the full year, the company forecast 6% sales growth, with earnings of $2.07 to $2.09 a share, or $2.17 to $2.19 excluding items.