A.H. Robins Co. yesterday won a nine-day delay -- to Jan. 6 -- in the court-ordered deadline for filing an amended financial reorganization plan, saying it needed more time to consider Wednesday's $3.02 billion offer by American Home Products Corp. to buy the Richmond firm and put $2.475 billion into a trust to pay Dalkon Shield claims.

U.S. District Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. canceled next Monday's deadline after hearing lawyers argue the pros and cons in a conference call. He has been in charge of the Chapter 11 case ever since a flood of lawsuits caused by the defective intrauterine contraceptive device led Robins to file for bankruptcy protection in August 1985.

Robins attorney Dennis J. Drebsky argued that the family-controlled company needed at least two weeks -- until Jan. 11 at the earliest -- to sort out the ramifications of three competing proposals, to choose among them, and to amend its pending plan for reorganization.

The earliest offer, made by Rorer Group Inc., is embodied in the pending plan. The second bid came on Dec. 17 from Sanofi, a leading French pharmaceutical firm; the third is American Home's.

The delay affords an opportunity for other potential acquirers to come forward.

Retention of the Monday deadline was urged by Mark C. Ellenberg, a lawyer for the Dalkon Shield Claimants' Committee; Stanley K. Joynes III, who represents women whose IUD injuries have or will become evident in the 14-year period ended in the year 2000; and Ralph R. Mabey, the official examiner in the bankruptcy.

The principal arguments against delay were based on the fact that the bankruptcy is now in its 29th month because Merhige has repeatedly granted motions by Robins to extend the period in which it has the exclusive right to file a reorganization plan.

Ellenberg and Joynes contended that the way to end the bankruptcy -- so as to compensate women injured by a device that hasn't been sold since the early 1970s -- is to end Robins' monopoly on the right to file a plan. So long as the company has that monopoly, they argued, it will continue to play off one prospective acquirer after another so as to maximize the reward for the stockholders. Drebsky denied the allegation.

The Robins family owns about 40 percent of the common shares, and the largest chunks of the outside shares are controlled by speculative ventures. Under the bankruptcy code, the interests of the creditors -- principally victims in the case of Robins -- come before those of the shareholders.

Mabey told the judge that Robins is familiar with all of the offers and needs no time beyond Monday to evaluate them and to amend the pending plan.

The judge said the immediate issue posed a dilemma because he was reluctant to grant more delays, but he finally set Jan. 6. He had set the Dec. 28 deadline after concluding that $2.475 billion, paid over an undefined "reasonable" length of time, would constitute "full" compensation of victims.

Sanofi, as well as American Home, have based their proposals on putting $2.475 billion in a victims' trust.

American Home, a New York-based conglomerate and the third-largest drug company in the United States, would trade American Home shares valued at $550 million for all of the shares of Robins. It would pay Dalkon Shield victims off in eight years -- from 1988 to 1995.

In a letter to President E. Claiborne Robins Jr., American Home Chairman John R. Stafford called his proposal "more advantageous to the {Robins} stockholders" than the Sanofi or Rorer bids.

Sanofi's offer -- an oral one when it was announced a week ago -- was for a 60 percent interest in Robins.

Rorer proposed to acquire Robins in a $2.65 billion deal that included a $1.75 billion trust for Dalkon Shield victims, but the Ft. Washington, Pa., drug firm is believed to be willing to pay $2.475 billion and come abreast of its rivals if the time period is seven years. The claimants' committee calls that period excessive and unfair.

American Home, which had 1986 sales of $4.93 billion -- nearly six times Rorer's -- made a bid for Robins last February, but withdrew it nine days later. The stated reason was "uncertainties surrounding the situation ... which were not clarified to American Home Products' satisfaction."

An American Home spokesman said that the uncertainties concerned shield liability -- not, as was widely reported at the time, demands by Robins for long-term management contracts and "golden parachutes."

President Robins, irked by the allegations, said in a press release on Feb. 20 that they were "irresponsible and factually inaccurate," adding, "There never was any discussion of executive perks."

But an internal American Home document dated Feb. 11, obtained by The Washington Post, cited requests for contracts and other benefits for key Robins executives.

The document, entitled "summary of our final position on certain key issues," said that up to 30 Robins officials were to get contracts with a duration of no more than a year; that Chairman E. Claiborne Robins was to get "$100,000 per year renewable annually at AHP's option;" and that his son, Claiborne Jr., was to get $150,000 annually for two years as a consultant.

On the New York Stock Exchange yesterday, American Home closed at $72, down $1. Robins closed at $20.50, up $1.25.