MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. said a jump in the company's fourth-quarter sales boosted profits above Wall Street's prediction.

But there was no word Wednesday on when or how the company's board of directors would respond to offers to buy the company.

Earnings in the October-December period, excluding a restructuring charge for eliminating the production of novelty products, totaled $1 million, or 14 cents a share, compared with $840 million, or 11 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial had expected fourth-quarter earnings of 11 cents a share.

Including the restructuring charge, the company reported a fourth-quarter loss of $4.56 million, or 64 cents a share.

Sales for the quarter were $51.68 million, up nearly 17 percent from $44.33 million a year earlier. The company credited increased sales in the United Kingdom and higher sales of pints of ice cream in the United States for the growth.

The special charge related to eliminating the production of novelty ice cream products, such as chocolate-coated bars, at a company-owned plant in Springfield, Vt. It plans to hire an outside company to produce its novelty items.

In early afternoon, shares in Ben & Jerry's were unchanged at $22.50 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

For the year, net income excluding the special charge was $9 million, or $1.21 a share, compared with $6.24 million, or 84 cents, in 1998. Including the charge, earnings were $3.39 million, or 46 cents a share.

Sales totaled $237 million, up 13 percent from $209.2 million in 1998.

Ben & Jerry's repeated its December announcement that it had received ``indications of interest'' to acquire the company, but gave no clue how it might respond.

``No decision has been made by the board with respect to any of these indications of interest or as to any sale of the company,'' the statement said.

Several coalitions of franchisees and customers have been formed to fight a takeover.