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DaimlerChrysler Beats Estimates

Earnings were up compared to a year ago despite a drop in operating profit.

Auto giant



said Wednesday that a 17% rise in revenues helped drive up earnings, beating Wall Street's estimates, despite a drop in operating profit.

DaimlerChrysler, of Stuttgart, Germany, and Auburn Hills, Mich., said its first-quarter net income was $1.6 billion, or $1.62 a share, compared with $1.6 billion, or $1.57 a share, in the year-ago period, as revenues surged to $39.2 billion, compared with $33.5 billion last year.

Wall Street had expected earnings of $1.58 a share, according to a poll conducted by

First Call/Thomson Financial


Operating profit, meanwhile, dropped 3% in the first quarter to $2.3 billion as competition heated up in North America.

The company's

Chrysler Group

, which makes the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Plymouth brands, said revenues suffered the most in the quarter despite a 24% increase in revenues to $18.2 billion

"Due to intensified competition, greater margin pressure, increased interest rates in North America and expenses for product launches, operating profit could not match the previous year's record figure and decreased by 7% to $1.3 billion," the company said in a statement.

The Mercedes-Benz and Smart division reported an 11% increase in operating profit as revenues rose by 17%. The company's commercial vehicles division said its operating profit surged 34% while revenues rose by a smaller 11%. The DaimlerChrysler services and aerospace divisions also posted increases in their operating profits of 5% and 26% respectively.

The company said it would propose a dividend of 2.35 euros per share, or about $2.25, for 1999 at its annual shareholders meeting to be held in Berlin on Wednesday.

Shares of DaimlerChrysler closed Tuesday down 5/8 at 64 5/8.