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Alex Brandon, Associated Press
In a Thursday, April 19, 2012 photo, the ConocoPhillips refinery is seen in Trainer, Pa. ConocoPhillips on Monday, April 23, 2012 reported first-quarter earnings of $2.9 billion, compared with first-quarter 2011 earnings of $3.0 billion. Excluding $330 million of special items, first-quarter 2012 adjusted earnings were $2.6 billion. Special items were primarily related to gains on asset dispositions, partially offset by impairments and repositioning costs.

NEW YORK — ConocoPhillips said Monday that its first-quarter profit dropped 3 percent due to a decline in production following the sale of billions of dollars of oil fields and other assets.

The Houston company reported earnings of $2.94 billion, or $2.27 per share, from January to March. That compares with $3.03 billion, or $2.09 per share, in the same part of 2011. Revenue was flat at $58.4 billion.

Excluding special items, ConocoPhillips said adjusted earnings were $2.02 per share. Analysts, who typically exclude special items, were expecting earnings of $2.08 per share on revenue of $60 billion, according to FactSet.

ConocoPhillips has shed more than $20 billion in assets since 2010 as part of a plan to split into separate companies. One company will keep the ConocoPhillips name and focus on exploration and production. The other company, Phillips 66, will specialize in refineries and pipelines.

CEO Jim Mulva will retire following the split on May 1.

With fewer producing assets, ConocoPhillips' oil and natural gas production dropped by 3.8 percent to 1.64 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the first quarter. The company's oil platforms also were temporarily suspended off the coast of China because of an oil spill.

The company sold crude oil for higher prices in the quarter, but natural gas prices declined.

ConocoPhillips' refineries also sold less gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products in the period. Total refining sales dropped by 11.2 percent. Refining profit fell by 6.2 percent overall. Its midstream business, which includes pipelines, increased profits 27.4 percent, and its chemicals business boosted profits by 13 percent.

Shares fell by 81 cents to $72.07 in morning trading.

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