Dollar General ( DG) posted a 31% rise in first-quarter profit, thanks in part to an increase in sales. The company earned $60.3 million, or 18 cents a share, compared with $45.9 million, or 14 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Excluding certain restatement expenses, the company earned $60.5 million, or 18 cents a share, compared with $49.3 million, or 15 cents a share, in the prior-year quarter. Analysts were expecting the company to earn 16 cents a share. Total sales were $1.57 billion, up from last year's $1.39 billion. The company cited a total of 598 new stores and a 4.2% rise in same-store sales. General expenses were up, however, at $349 million, from $297.3 million in the previous period. Looking to 2003, Dollar General expects revenue to increase 13% to 15% and earnings to increase 11% to 15%, excluding items. Same-store sales are expected to grow 4% to 6%. Analysts expect the company to earn 86 cents a share on revenue of $6.9 billion. Dollar General earned 75 cents a share on revenue of $6.1 billion in the prior year. Shares of the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based discounter closed at $16.53 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.