UPDATE 3-Abbott's profit forecast gets a lift from COVID-19 test demand

(Adds details from conference call, updates shares)

Jan 27 (Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories Inc forecast full-year profit above analysts’ estimates on Wednesday and expects demand for its COVID-19 tests to continue into 2022 as the pandemic shows little signs of abating.

The company currently offers eight different types COVID-19 tests, including molecular, antigen and serology, that have been authorized for emergency use by U.S. health regulators.

In the latest fourth quarter, Abbott sold more than 300 million of its test kits, bringing in sales of $2.4 billion and accounting for nearly half of its diagnostic unit’s revenue.

“I expect testing demand is still going to remain high, even as the vaccines roll out. Don’t think we’ve seen peak testing demand yet,” Chief Executive Officer Robert Ford said on a post-earnings call with analysts.

Demand for pricier tests with greater turnaround times might mature in 2022, but demand for antigen testing which is rapid and more affordable will be sustained, Ford said.

Sales at its diagnostics business soared nearly 110% to $4.35 billion in the fourth quarter, helping the company more than offset flattish sales at its medical device business and a 2.3% drop in its pharmaceuticals business.

The Illinois-based company also said it was continuing to scale up production of its tests and had the capacity to produce 100 million tests per month.

The company forecast full-year adjusted earnings of $5 per share, above analysts’ estimates of $4.37, reflecting a 35% rise from a year earlier.

Abbott said the full-year earnings forecast might see a “significant upside” depending on demand for COVID-19 testing.

Excluding items, Abbott earned $1.45 per share, beating analysts’ estimates of $1.34 per share.

Shares of the company were up 2.3% at $117.4 in late morning trade. (Reporting by Mrinalika Roy and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru and Carl O’Donell in New York; Editing by Anil D’Silva)