FedEx

(FDX) - Get Report

said first-quarter earnings rose 45%, topping analysts' estimates, due in part to growth in the company's ground delivery service.

The company also affirmed its outlook for second-quarter and annual earnings.

The company earned $158 million, or 52 cents a share, compared with last year's $109 million, or 36 cents a share. Analysts had predicted the company would earn 49 cents a share. Last year's net was reduced by 5 cents a share by a change in accounting.

Combined FedEx Express, FedEx Ground and FedEx Freight revenue rose 8% to $5.45 billion, compared with last year's $5.04 billion. FedEx Express revenue increased 5% to $3.93 billion, and FedEx Ground revenue was $826 million, up 33%. FedEx Freight revenue was $533 million, up 4%.

Average daily package volume at both FedEx Express and FedEx Ground combined grew 11% compared with last year.

Looking ahead, FedEx expects second-quarter earnings to be 75 cents to 85 cents a share, compared with analysts' estimates of 77 cents a share. The company earned 81 cents a share in the year-ago period. FedEx expects to earn $2.77 a share in 2003, while analysts' outlook is for $2.69 a share.

Shares of Tennessee-based FedEx closed at $42.80 Wednesday on the

New York Stock Exchange

.