Abbott Laboratories (ABT) revealed on Wednesday stronger-than-expected first-quarter revenue, lifted across several of its business segments as the company continued its expansion in emerging markets, though its profit fell on sharply higher expenses. 

Net earnings slipped 14% to $864 million, or 55 cents a share, compared with $1 billion, or 64 cents a share, in the same quarter last year. Excluding special items, the company earned $1.4 billion, or 91 cents a share, narrowly ahead of average analyst estimates of 90 cents.

The company's profit took a hit from higher expenses, with total operating costs and expenses up 24% to $7.7 billion, led by cost of products sold and selling, general and administrative expenses, up 15.7% and 32%, respectively. 

Partially offsetting the harsh costs that weighed on profits were sales. The Abbott Park, Ill.-based drug maker posted revenue of $9.04 billion, up 17.4% from $7.69 billion a year ago, beating the Street’s view of $8.83 billion.

“Stronger-than-expected sales helped us deliver 12% ongoing earnings-per-share growth in the first quarter” Abbott CEO Miles White said in a statement.

Gains were led by its durable growth, proprietary pharmaceuticals and innovation-driven devices, according to White, who note that the performance reflects “healthy performance across our global operations, including continued rapid growth in emerging markets.”

Sales from emerging markets continued to widen during the quarter, up 38.4% to $2.3 billion, with strong growth across all of its operations divisions. The company’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira widened 18% during the quarter.

Abbott confirmed its fiscal 2011 earnings in the range of $4.54 to $4.64 a share. Analysts are anticipating earnings of $4.60 a share.

Follow Jennifer Booton on Twitter at @Jbooton