Harrah's Entertainment

( HET) reported solid earnings growth, beating Wall Street expectations, as its bets on acquisitions and new technology paid off.

Harrah's, which is in the process of acquiring

Caesars Entertainment

(CZR) - Get Report

in a $5.2 billion cash-and-stock deal, reported record third-quarter net income of $118.8 million, up 19.4% from $99.5 million a year earlier. Earnings per share were $1.06, compared with 90 cents in the year-earlier quarter. Income from operations rose 26.9% to a record $257.8 million from $203.2 million in the third quarter of 2003.

Using property EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, amortization and depreciation -- a key performance metric watched by Wall Street -- Harrah's earned a record $374.2 million, up 26.2% from $296.5 million a year earlier. Adjusted earnings per share came in at $1.09, up 17.2% from 93 cents in last year's third quarter, and a nickel better than the $1.04 average analyst estimate.

Revenue hit a record $1.31 billion, up 25.5% from $1.04 billion in the year-earlier quarter, but below the Wall Street forecast for $1.35 billion.

"Strategic acquisitions, capital investments and market-leading technological and marketing capabilities all played a role in propelling Harrah's Entertainment to record results," said Gary Loveman, the company's chief executive. "While 2003 and the first half of 2004 marked a period of transition with the rollout of new initiatives such as Total Rewards 2 and Fast Cash, we have now seen a resumption of significant growth. We believe our strategic initiatives and investments position us well for continued growth across key customer segments."