DEERFIELD, Ill. - Executives at Baxter International Inc. will meet with the pension fund's investment consultants and actuaries early this year to hammer out a plan dividing the employee benefit assets.

The division is necessary because the Deerfield-based health-care company is splitting in two later this year.

Charles Thurman, Baxter's assistant treasurer, said it's too early to determine how the pension and 401(k) assets will be divided.

Baxter has $800 million-plus in defined benefit assets, and $1 billion in a 401(k) plan.

Mr. Thurman also said it was too early to tell if any of the company's employee benefits staff would move to the yet unnamed hospital supply company.

Still, some things already are clear. For example, Mr. Thurman said Baxter's investment consultant, DeMarche Associates, Overland Park, Kan., will continue to work for at least one of the two companies resulting from the breakup, or possibly both.

Meanwhile, company officials are reviewing an earlier Baxter spinoff - that of Caremark International in 1992 - as well as the splitting up of ITT Corp. and AT&T Co., to see how those companies handled employee benefits.

"I think you do look at other companies, but benefits are a function of your own population," Mr. Thurman explained.

The typical Baxter employee is 39 years old, and has worked at the company for around eight years, Mr. Thurman said.

While the company's pension plan has enough assets to meet accrued benefits - from an accounting standpoint - it does not have enough assets to pay out all promised future benefits, Mr. Thurman said.

Baxter has contributed more than $300 million to the defined benefit plan during the past five years.

The new Baxter will be left with 33,000 of the company's current 55,000 employees. The remaining 22,000 employees will become part of the new hospital supplies company.

When Caremark was spun off, Baxter divvied up the pension plan assets and liabilities in proportion to the number of employees working in those businesses.

Caremark executives then tinkered with the asset allocation to suit its younger work force.

Also, two of Baxter's executives became Caremark's key employee benefits officials. Kent De Lucenay became the new unit's vice president of human resources, with Robert Rook, reporting to him as vice president of compensation, benefits and human resource systems.

Caremark's new pension plan began with $9 million; it now has assets of $16 million. The 401(k) plan, which began with $40 million, has grown to $60 million, said Rick Davis, vice president of compensation, benefits and human resource systems.

"The model seems to have worked quite well," Mr. Davis said. Even though Caremark represented only a small portion of the company's businesses, splitting Baxter's retirement plans into two "still makes sense," Mr. Davis offered.

In the meanwhile, Mr. Thurman said Baxter is not "putting anything on hold" related to managing the company's retirement plans. Baxter plans to add a synthetic GIC manager to the 401(k) plan's investment options soon, he said. Baxter has been talking to Brundage, Story & Rose and Standish, Ayer & Wood Inc., Mr. Thurman said.

The plan currently offers Baxter employees a choice of six investment options.

On the defined benefit side, no changes in asset allocation or money managers are in the pipeline. Baxter has 85% of the plan's assets in equities - including venture capital - 8% in bonds and the remaining 7% in real estate.