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Liberty Financial

(L) - Get Loews Corporation Report

, which said today it was considering the sale of the company, posted preliminary third-quarter earnings that exceeded analysts' expectations by 3 cents.

Shares of the company jumped more than 40% after it was delayed at the opening of the

New York Stock Exchange


The company reported operating income of $32.3 million, or 66 cents a share, compared with $32.9 million, or 68 cents a share, in the same period last year. The figures exclude restructuring charges and realized investment losses. Seven analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

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expected the company to earn 63 cents a share

Gross sales for the quarter fell to $3.2 billion from $3.6 billion a year ago, while third-quarter net sales were $900 million.

The company expects to finalize third-quarter results after it reviews the carrying value of its investments in private equity funds.

Liberty, which sells annuities and mutual funds and manages investments, said it retained

CS First Boston

to review the company's strategic options, including the possible sale of the company.

Liberty signed a definitive agreement to sell the Chicago-based Private Capital Management division of Stein Roe & Farnham to the current management team and an outside investor group. Liberty will continue to own and operate Stein Roe's mutual fund and management businesses.

The company also plans to restructure its mutual funds businesses to improve profits and growth, by merging a number of smaller funds into larger ones.

Liberty's shares closed at $36, up $9, or 33%.