Baxter International ( BAX) took care of one major item of uncertainty for investors by hiring a new chairman and chief executive Monday.

On Thursday, the Deerfield, Ill., medical products company issues its first-quarter earnings report. But analysts believe the uncertainty will remain for several months until the new boss, Robert L. Parkinson, Jr., 53, has a chance to assess Baxter's product portfolio and prepare a plan for the future. Parkinson, who will join Baxter April 26, replaces Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr., who announced his resignation Jan. 26. Kraemer remained with the company while a successor was being sought.

A few days ago, Baxter looked like a model for Wall Street uncertainty as neutral opinions outnumbered buy recommendations by 10 to 5, according to Thomson First Call. (There was one sell recommendation.) Parkinson's hiring won't improve the first quarter, but it definitely improved Wall Street's mood. Two investment banking firms raised their rating on the stock within 24 hours of Baxter's announcement.

The consensus opinion is for first-quarter earnings of $203.6 million, or 31 cents a share, on revenue of $2.15 billion. For the same period last year, the company reported earnings from continuing operations of $217 million, or 36 cents a share, on revenue of $2 billion.

The company beat the Wall Street consensus of 61 cents by a penny for the fourth quarter of 2003. But in three of the four previous quarters, Baxter failed to match Wall Street predictions.

Based on their comments prior to Thursday's conference call, analysts may focus more on Parkinson than on the previous quarter's results, even though Parkinson won't assume control until next week.

Parkinson "brings strong operations experience, which in our opinion is the key skill set needed at the helm of Baxter," said Lawrence Keusch, a Goldman Sachs analyst, in a research report Monday.

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