St. Paul Bancorp said Friday that 90 employees have accepted the company's offer to take early retirement.

The $5.9 billion-asset thrift, which is under pressure from some investors to improve earnings or sell, announced a plan last month to slash annual costs by $9 million by 1999. The early retirement offer to 180 employees was one component of the plan.

The thrift reported a loss of $11.7 million, or 29 cents per share, in the third quarter. The loss reflects both a higher-than-expected, $25 million restructuring charge and an $11.5 million charge related to its July 1 acquisition of Beverly Bancorp.

Without the charges, St. Paul said, earnings were $14.2 million, or 34 cents per share. On an operating basis, St. Paul missed Wall Street consensus estimates by 2 cents.

Earnings "look a little light," said analyst Joseph Stieven of Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.

St. Paul chairman and chief executive officer Joseph Scully said, "'98 has been a difficult year for thrifts." But, he added, "We have been able to hold our own."

- Brett Chase

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