Lamar Advertising Co., a Baton Rouge-based outdoor advertiser, reported a third-quarter profit of $18.3 million, or 19 cents per share, compared to $11.5 million, or 12 cents per share, a year ago.

The company’s revenue rose 5.5 percent to $323.2 million. The company’s earnings were in line with Wall Street analysts’ expectations. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast earnings of 19 cents per share on revenue of $322.4 million.

Lamar Chief Executive Officer Sean E. Reilly said the company saw improvements in advertising by restaurants, retailers, real estate, hospitals and car dealers.

Telecom and hotel-motel advertising continued to dwindle.

Lamar has more than 144,000 billboards, 1,800 digital displays and 34,000 transit displays for advertising clients. It operates about 200 offices in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

Reilly said Lamar still plans to convert to a Real Estate Investment Trust by the end of the year.

“The REIT conversion process is not the most transparent process,” Reilly told investors and analysts on a Wednesday morning conference call.

The process has been frustrating, but Lamar expects to complete the restructuring needed to convert before the year is out, he said.

Real Estate Investment Trusts typically invest in property or mortgages. The trusts don’t have to pay corporate income tax on profits as long as at least 90 percent of earnings go to shareholders.

Lamar is among a number of nontraditional companies, such as cell tower owners, document storage facilities and even prisons, seeking REIT status.

Reilly said Lamar had no idea a year ago that the IRS would be inundated by nontraditional REIT requests, a government shutdown and other issues.

In hindsight, the company probably would have told the markets to sit tight, because the process would take a year, Reilly said.

Lamar said it expects fourth-quarter revenue will be between $314 million and $317 million, an increase of 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent over the same period in 2012.

Reilly said the 2012 fourth-quarter results benefited from a $1.4 million legal settlement and some small acquisitions.

When the 2012 results are adjusted for those items, Lamar’s 2013 fourth-quarter revenue projections are 1 percent to 2 percent higher.

The company’s shares closed at $48.74, up 43 cents.