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UPDATE 2-Baxter sees strong 2018, says Puerto Rico business ramp up to be over soon

over soon@ (Adds details on Puerto Rico facilities, analyst comment shares)

Feb 1 (Reuters) - Baxter International Inc forecast 2018 earnings largely above Wall Street estimates as the hospital products maker ramps up production at its Puerto Rico facilities impacted by Hurricane Maria.

The company whose sales took a $70 million hit in the fourth quarter said supply level at Puerto Rico will normalize in a few weeks and forecast an impact of $25 million in the current quarter due to related business disruptions.

Despite the hurricane damage, the company's profit for the fourth quarter beat analysts' estimate. "It was a strong fourth-quarter," Joanne Wuensch of BMO Research said, adding that the full-year guidance looks conservative.

Baxter said last week it would import large saline bags from its plant in Mexico to ease hospital shortages of the product due to prolonged power outages in Puerto Rico.

The company said net sales rose about 5 percent to $2.77 billion and was in line with the average analyst estimate.

Shares of Baxter, which sells products including intravenous devices, pre-filled vials and syringes for injectable drugs, inhalation and surgical equipment, were down 1.1 percent at $71.25 in light premarket trading.

Baxter's medical products business raked in $1.71 billion in the quarter ended Dec. 31, up 4.6 percent from a year earlier, while sales at its renal products unit grew 5.3 percent to $1.07 billion.

The company posted a net loss of $71 million, or 13 cents per share, in the quarter due to a $354 million charge it booked following changes in the U.S. tax law.

Excluding items, the company earned 64 cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 59 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Baxter forecast full-year adjusted earnings per share to be between $2.72 and $2.80. Analysts on average were expecting profit of $2.72 per share. (Reporting by Divya Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)