WILMINGTON, Del. - Beneficial Corp. said it earned $38.5 million in the third quarter, 2% more than in the third quarter of 1991.

Earnings per share increased two cents, or 1%, to $1.43. For the nine months, operating earnings increased 13% to $124.3 million.

"Wide lending spreads and improvement in net chargeoffs year-to-year allowed us to generate the modest gain in earnings per share," though receivables grew less than expected and losses were recorded on several start-up ventures, said Finn M.W. Caspersen, chairman and chief executive officer.

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