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H&R Block posts profit in fiscal 3rd quarter

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[March 06, 2009]  KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- H&R Block Inc. said Friday its third-quarter profits surged as it prepared more tax returns in the early season and saw smaller losses from discontinued operations.

The Kansas City-based company reported earning $47.4 million, or 14 cents per share, during the three months ended Jan. 31. By comparison, H&R Block lost $47.4 million, or 14 cents per share, during the same period a year ago.

InsuranceAnalysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected earnings of 10 cents per share, on average.

Income from continuing operations jumped to $66.8 million, or 20 cents per share, from $7.1 million, or 2 cents per share. Meanwhile, losses from discontinued operations declined 64 percent to $19.5 million, or 6 cents per share, from $54.5 million, or 16 cents per share.

The discontinued operations include the H&R Block Financial Advisors unit, which was sold in November. Last year's results also included the last parts of the company's sale of its mortgage lending operation.

Revenue during the quarter rose 11 percent to $993.5 million, surpassing analysts' expectations of $975.3 million.

Tax services revenue increased 15 percent to $761.7 million as the company said it saw a 3 percent increase in the number of tax returns prepared by its retail offices, software and online products through Jan. 31.

Including February returns, however, the number of tax returns prepared declined 1.8 percent versus a year ago, which was partially offset by an 8.5 percent increase in average fees. Those results don't include an additional leap day in February last year or clients who filed tax returns only because it was required to receive an economic stimulus payment.

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Retail operations, through February, saw a 3.9 percent decrease in tax returns filed and 5.7 percent fewer taxpayers used H&R Block's TaxCut software to prepare their taxes themselves. The company's online products, including a new free service aimed at lower-income consumers, saw a 56.5 percent jump in returns filed, the company said.

The company's consumer financial services unit, which includes the H&R Block Bank, lost $3.3 million pretax during the quarter as it set aside another $13.5 million to cover potential losses on mortgage loans.

[Associated Press; By DAVID TWIDDY]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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