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America Online Inc., operator of the nation's third largest computer on-line service, said it earned $2.1 million in its fourth fiscal quarter, tripling its year-ago profit.

The company, based in Vienna, Va., earned 25 cents per share in the three months ending June 30. A year earlier, America Online earned $724,000, or 10 cents per share, during the same period.Revenue was $37.8 million, up from $12.4 million a year ago.

The company tripled its subscriber base during the past year, from 302,000 to 900,000. Only Prodigy Services Co. and Compu-Serve are larger, each with a little more than 1 million paying subscribers.

"We're on track to pass the 1 million subscriber mark over the next month and are aiming to become the No. 1 on-line service over the next year," Steve Case, chief executive of America Online, said in a statement.

The company's stock rose 121/2 cents to close at $58.371/2 on the Nasdaq stock market Tuesday.

Its shares fell $5 Friday to around $56 after the company's largest shareholder, billionaire investor Paul Allen, sold half his 18 percent stake in a profit-taking move.

Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., was thought at one time to consider an outright purchase of the company. But the company adopted a "poison pill" plan making a takeover very expensive.

For the full fiscal year, America Online earned $6.2 million, or 76 cents per share. It earned $4.2 million, or 60 cents per share, in fiscal 1993.

Annual revenue was $104.4 million, up from $38.5 million in fiscal 1993.