Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc. reported yesterday that it earned $15.1 million (31 cents per share) in the third quarter as a surge in investment-banking activity boosted the firm's revenue to $81.7 million, the highest since the financial services firm went public more than four years ago.

In the third quarter of last year, the firm lost $22.4 million (49 cents) on revenue of $21.8 million. Investment-banking revenue was the largest source of growth, jumping more than 400 percent from the year-earlier quarter, to $58.9 million.

"Investment-banking revenues have been steadily increasing in one of the most challenging markets for investment banking that any of us have ever seen," said co-chief executive Eric F. Billings.

During the third quarter, FBR raised more than $1 billion for real estate and finance companies, capitalizing on low interest rates to raise additional capital from the public markets.

Two large deals, a $502.5 million secondary stock sale for auto finance company AmeriCredit Corp. and a $400 million private sale of stock for American Financial Realty Trust, made up the bulk of the firm's third-quarter activity.

Earlier this month FBR officials said that they expected investment banking to boost the firm's business during the third quarter, despite a bleaker picture for many other financial services firms.

For the nine months ended Sept. 30, FBR earned $43.2 million (90 cents) on revenue of $209.3 million, compared with a loss of $23.4 million (49 cents) on revenue of $99.4 million in the first nine months of last year. The company also said yesterday that it has opened an office in San Francisco, its 16th.

* Radio One Inc., a Lanham broadcaster targeting African American listeners, reported a third-quarter profit of $12.8 million, compared with a loss of $10.1 million during the same period last year.

Net income available to common stockholders, after preferred stock dividends, was $7.8 million (7 cents per share), compared with a loss of $15.1 million (16 cents) in the quarter a year ago.

Last year's loss followed a period of rapid growth, in which Radio One doubled its size, and a weak advertising market that stifled the entire media industry. The market for radio advertising has bounced back and Radio One is successfully managing its acquisitions, said company Chief Financial Officer Scott R. Royster.

"[This is] a pretty robust advertising environment, particularly for radio companies," Royster said.

"In certain sectors, news print and magazines, it still might be tough sledding out there, but in general we feel pretty good about the state of the industry."

Net broadcast revenue rose 22 percent, to $80.5 million, during the quarter, up from $66.2 million last year. Broadcast cash flow, an indicator of how well its radio stations are operating, increased 25 percent, to $43.1 million, from $34.4 million last year.

"The biggest issue surrounding the stock is whether or not the strong advertising market can be sustained with the economic recovery looking so shaky," said Frederick W. Moran, an analyst at New York-based Jefferies & Co.

* Harman International Industries Inc., a Washington-based maker of audio systems, said strong growth in consumer sales led to a near doubling of its fiscal year 2003 first-quarter profit.

Harman said it earned $9.8 million (29 cents per share) on net sales of $490.8 million in the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with $5 million (15 cents) on net sales of $399 million in the period a year earlier. Quarterly sales at its flagship consumer systems group, which sells high-end speakers and stereo products, rose 33 percent from a year ago, to $389.8 million.

* Federal Realty Investment Trust, a Rockville owner and developer of shopping centers, said it earned $18.5 million on revenue of $78.3 million in the third quarter, compared with $15.2 million on revenue of $74.1 million in the third quarter of 2001.

After preferred dividends were paid, net income attributable to common stockholders was $13.6 million (31 cents per share), compared with $13.2 million (33 cents) a year earlier.

Federal Realty's funds from operations, a standard measure of performance for real estate companies, was $29.7 million, compared with $28.3 million a year earlier.

Federal Realty said that while same-center rental income increased in the quarter, higher preferred dividends and sales of shares to pay down a line of credit resulted in lower earnings per share.

* Meristar Hospitality Corp., a Washington-based hotel real estate investment trust, said it lost $29.4 million (65 cents per share) on revenue of $235.8 million in the third quarter, compared with a loss of $17.3 million (39 cents) on revenue of $244 million in the same period of 2001.

The company, like all hoteliers, said a decline in travel around the Sept. 11 anniversary and a slowdown in business travel in general led to the worsening profit picture. Meristar said its "comparative funds from operations," a measure of real estate company performance that leaves out one-time expenses, was $6.7 million in the quarter, compared with $15.4 million a year earlier.