DALLAS - Associates First Capital said it earned $442 million, or 61 cents a share, in the third quarter - 14% more than a year earlier and meeting analysts' forecasts.

The company attributed the increase to internal growth and strategic acquisitions in its domestic credit card and international consumer finance businesses. In August, Citigroup Inc. announced a deal to buy Associates, citing its global operations as one of the prime enticements.

"Our global consumer businesses continue to produce excellent financial results driven by strong margins and stable credit quality," said Keith W. Hughes, chairman and chief executive officer of Associates, in a press statement. "As we look forward to combining with Citigroup, I take special pride in this quarter."

The deal has met with growing criticism from consumer and community activists, who contend that Associates conducts abusive lending practices and that Citigroup will add legitimacy to those practices and promote further exploitation in the lower-income and minority communities.

Citigroup officials have been meeting this week with critics, who have announced their intention to block the deal and predicted the largest activist protest ever.

"For communities of color this is like King Kong teaming up with Godzilla," said Ruhi Maker, a lawyer with the Greater Rochester Community Reinvestment Association in upstate New York. "Associates is already under investigation by several federal and state agencies for its lending practices. This unsavory merger proves how dangerous so-called financial modernization is to the cause of fair banking."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.