Providian Financial Corp. said it earned $94.9 million in the fourth quarter, 76% more than a year earlier. Diluted earnings per share rose to 66 cents, from 37 cents.

Net income for 1998 rose to $296 million, a 55% jump from 1997.

The company's noninterest income grew to $1 billion, from $460 million in 1997. Managed loans were $13.2 billion, up from $9.9 billion at yearend 1997. Providian's unsecured credit card portfolio grew to $9.3 billion, from $8 billion.

Credit losses increased to 7.32% of outstanding loans - up from 6.32% in 1997-mainly due to the acquisition of portfolios with higher chargeoff rates. Without the acquisitions, chargeoffs would have inched up to 6.33%, the company said.

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