Marriott International Inc. yesterday reported a 12 percent increase in earnings for its fiscal third quarter ended Sept. 10. The Bethesda-based hotel company said diluted earnings rose to $96 million (36 cents per share), from $86 million (32 cents) in the same quarter of last year.

Third-quarter revenue rose 11 percent, to $2 billion from $1.8 billion.

The company's earnings increase was due to higher profit from its flagship chain of hotels as well as a strong summer at its Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel group.

"Marriott Hotels, Resorts and Suites continues to generate better-than-average sales growth and is achieving higher house profit margins through tight cost controls and improved productivity," said J.W. Marriott Jr., the company's chairman and chief executive.

The third-quarter profit matched the 36-cent average estimate of analysts polled by First Call Corp.

Marriott will open about 250 new hotels with 30,000 rooms this year, the company said.

For the first three quarters of 1999, Marriott International reported net income of $310 million and diluted earnings per share of $1.16, up 12 percent and 14 percent, respectively, from the 1998 period. Sales totaled $5.9 billion, a 9 percent increase over the first three quarters of 1998.

* Bassett Furniture Industries Inc. earned $4.4 million (36 cents per share) in its fiscal third quarter ended Aug. 28, an 18.4 percent increase from the same period in 1998.

Sales declined 9.5 percent, to $88.8 million, reflecting the third-quarter sale of the Bassett, Va.-based furniture maker's bedding division.

Earnings for the first nine months of the company's fiscal year were $13.9 million ($1.10), a 7.2 percent increase. Management attributed the earnings increase to gross-margin improvement and more investment earnings.