Updated from 8:07 a.m. EDTWal-Mart's ( WMT) first-quarter profits rose faster than its sales, as the company benefited from margin improvement and decreased interest expenses. The retail behemoth earned $1.86 billion, or 42 cents a share, in its quarter ended April 30. Wal-Mart's earnings per share were up 13.5% from the year-ago period, when it posted profits of $1.63 billion, or 37 cents a share. Compared with its first quarter a year ago, Wal-Mart's revenue increased 9.8% to $57.22 billion. That revenue figure does not include sales from McLane, the grocery distributor that Wal-Mart recently agreed to sell to Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A). Analysts had been expecting the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer to earn 42 cents a share on $60.69 billion in revenue, according to Thomson First Call. On a prerecorded conference call, Wal-Mart officials acknowledged that the company's sales were "below plan," but praised the company's performance in the face of the sales problems. "The just-completed quarter was one of the most interesting and, in some ways, confusing quarter in recent Wal-Mart history," said CEO Lee Scott, on the call. "All that said, we had a good quarter from an operating perspective."