LOS ANGELES - Coast Savings Financial Inc. said it earned $3.5 million in the third quarter, 49% less than a year earlier, when it benefited from a substantial tax refund.

Per share earnings dropped to 21 cents, fully diluted, from 43 cents.

Earnings of $6.8 million in the third 1991 quarter reflected an $18.9 million city tax refund plus accrued interest.

In operating results and other indicators, Coast - which owns Coast Federal Bank - continued to show signs of a strong recovery from problems of recent years. Problem assets fell $1.4 million in the latest three months, to $353.7 million. Tangible, leverage, and risk-based capital ratios stood at 3.42%, 4.42%, and 9.04% on Sept. 30.

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