A helpful tax ruling and strong overall growth helped Prudential Financial Inc. double its profits in the third quarter.[@@]

Prudential, Newark, N.J., is reporting $1.3 billion in net income for the latest quarter on $7.8 billion in revenue, up from $548 million in net income on $7.3 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2004.

A rising stock market helped asset-management fees, and new annuity products helped increase annuity sales, Prudential says.

Meanwhile, the completion of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service let Prudential release $692 million in reserves that it been set aside to cover an unfavorable outcome.

In other earnings news:

- Nationwide Financial Services Inc., Columbus, Ohio, is reporting $167 million in net income for the third quarter on $1.1 billion in revenue, up from $136 million in net income on $1.1 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2004.

Sales of retirement plans were strong, but sales of individual life insurance were flat, and sales of fixed and variable annuities through financial institutions were weak, Nationwide says.

But Nationwide notes that the spread between the rate it paid to retirement plan members and the rate it earned on its own investments fell to 1.83 percentage points during the third quarter, down from 2.04 percentage points during the third quarter of 2004.

- Assurant Inc., New York, is reporting $100 million in net income for the third quarter on $1.9 billion in revenue, up from $75 million in net income on $1.8 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2004.

A drop in individual health membership hurt profits at the company’s Assurant Health unit, even though prices increased, but improved group life mortality and disability experience helped results at the company’s Assurant Employee Benefits unit, the company says.

- Conseco Inc., Carmel, Ind., is reporting $78 million in net income for the third quarter on $1.1 billion in revenue, up from $67 million in net income on $1.1 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2004.

Life insurance revenue was up at the company’s Bankers Life unit, and the company managed to hold on to $86 million in long term care insurance premium revenue, even though the LTC operation is in run-off mode. LTC revenue is down from $93 million for the third quarter of 2004.

- UICI, North Richland, Texas, is reporting $61 million in net income for the third quarter on $519 million in revenue, up from $34 million in net income on $514 million in revenue for the third quarter of 2004.

The company’s Star HRG division, which sells limited-benefit “mini medical” plans, generated $141,000 in operating income for the latest quarter on $35 million in revenue, compared with $119,000 in operating income on $37 million in revenue for the third quarter of 2004.