Home healthcare company Apria Healthcare Group ( AHG) said Thursday its third-quarter earnings remained flat.

The company earned $19.3 million, or 45 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $19.3 million, or 38 cents a share, a year ago. The earnings a share difference reflects the 7.3 million share repurchase in the fourth quarter of 2005. Further, the year-ago figures reflect a tax benefit of $2.3 million, or 5 cents a share, on settlement costs related to the qui tam lawsuit. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of 42 cents a share in the most recent quarter.

Third-quarter revenue rose 4% to $382.2 million as against analysts' expectation of $380.7 million.

For 2006, the company reaffirmed its earnings guidance of $1.70 a share to $1.74 a share on sales growth of 3%. Analysts are expecting earnings of $1.66 a share on revenue of $1.51 billion.

Gross margin declined 200 basis points to 65.7% in the third quarter, due to the medicare reimbursement reduction, managed care pricing reductions and product mix shifts.

The company's shares were up 96 cents, or 4.6% at $21.92 Thursday.
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