PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Employee health benefits provider Cigna Corp. said Friday its third-quarter earnings slipped from a year ago but its operating results were well above Wall Street expectations. Its stock price climbed nearly 13 percent in midday dealings.

Cigna earned $270 million, or $1.81 a share, for the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with $278 million, or $1.74 a share, a year earlier. The earnings per share rose because it had fewer shares outstanding this year.

Revenue for the period dropped to $4.78 billion from $5.03 billion a year earlier, the company said.

The results included after-tax charges of $25 million related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, mainly in the health care, life and disability insurance segment. They also included an after-tax gain of $33 million associated with the sale of a reinsurance business in 2000.

Excluding the one-time items, its operating income was $273 million, or $1.83 a share. That was well above the consensus forecast of $1.58 a share of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call.

In midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Cigna shares were up 12.9 percent, or $9.24 a share, at $80.84.

For the first nine months of the year, Cigna earned $798 million, or $5.26 a share, on revenue of $14.2 billion, compared with net income of $710 million, or $4.33 a share, on revenue of $14.9 billion in 2000.

Cigna provides employers with managed health care coverage, group life, accident and disability insurance, pension, 401(k) retirement and other benefits plans.

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On the Net: http://www.cigna.com