updated 4/29/2004 9:21:47 AM ET 2004-04-29T13:21:47

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s first-quarter profits fell 23 percent from a year ago, when the company had a huge gain from the sale of its stake in a German pipeline company. Revenue rose 6 percent on higher oil prices, and the company’s profit beat Wall Street expectations.

Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, said Thursday that it earned $5.44 billion, or 83 cents per share, in the January-March period. That was well ahead of the 75 cent estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

A year ago, the company earned $7.04 billion, $1.05 per share, including a $500 million gain from an accounting change and $1.7 billion from the sale of its interest in Germany’s Ruhrgas AG. Without those items, the year-ago profit was $4.79 billion, or 71 cents per share.

Revenue in the most recent quarter rose to $67.6 billion, up from $63.8 billion a year earlier.

Revenue from exploration and production was a record $4.01 billion; the company credited higher production and continued strong prices for oil and gas.

Revenue from refining and marketing gained $281 million, or 40 percent, to $1 billion despite weaker profit margins in refining. Profit from its chemicals division more than doubled, from $277 million last year to $564 million.

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