Fidelity National Financial hit a homer in the third quarter, reporting net earnings of $1.21 per share, compared with $1.09 per share in the same quarter last year.

Increased title and escrow revenues drove the company’s higher third-quarter profit.

Total revenue for the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company was $2.53 billion, compared with $2.16 billion for the third quarter of 2004. Total title and escrow revenue was $1.73 billion for the third quarter of 2005 versus $1.53 billion the previous year.

A group of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had predicted earnings of $1.08 per share.

The company’s shares were trading at $37.27, up eight cents a share, or 22 percent, just before noon today (EST) in the wake of the news.

“This was a very successful quarter for FNF on a number of fronts,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William P. Foley II, in a statement.

“We posted very strong financial results, including $1.21 in earnings per share and $467 million in cash flow from operations,” Foley noted.

“We also announced the merger between Fidelity National Information Services and Certegy and are now actively involved in the integration process for those businesses,” Foley said.

Fidelity is merging its mortgage processing unit with credit and debit processor Certegy in a deal that will give Fidelity majority control of the new publicly traded entity, the companies announced in September.

Fidelity said it expected the new company to pull in revenue at a rate of nearly $4 billion a year and pegged its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization at $1 billion.

The name of the combined company will become Fidelity National Information Services Inc. and will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “FIS.”

Foley said, “Finally, we completed the distribution of Fidelity National Title Group stock to FNF shareholders on October 17th and FNT is now trading as a majority-owned, publicly traded subsidiary of FNF.”

Earlier this month, Fidelity agreed to refund $2.2 million to central Florida residents in the wake of an investigation by Florida’s Department of Financial Services into alleged illegal referrals to title agencies for business.

Under the refund program, Fidelity National title customers who paid for title insurance provided by one of 60 title agencies in central Florida will receive 30 percent of the title insurance premium paid at the time of closing within the next 120 days. Fidelity also paid a $1 million fine, the department said.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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