On speculation that the company is close to a deal with a buyer, shares of FirstPlus Financial Corp. have risen more than 30% since a Sept. 14 low.

The Dallas company's shares rose by about $5 last week, trading at $20.625 at midday Friday.

FirstPlus said recently that it was putting itself on the block because it needed capital. FirstPlus said last week it had identified a stock trader who had been driving its stock price down by spreading misleading information over the Internet.

Specialty finance companies have watched their stock prices tumble in recent months.

Several companies-including Banc One Corp. in Columbus, Ohio, and GE Capital Corp. in Stamford, Conn.-have expressed interest in FirstPlus, analysts said.

Lenders such as FirstPlus, which makes loans to homeowners for more than the value of their properties, have experienced rapid growth in recent years.

Borrowers often use the loans to consolidate credit card debt.

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