UPDATE 1-Chile Cencosud 2012 profit down 1.6 pct, but Q4 surges

Fri Mar 1, 2013 10:48am EST

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SANTIAGO, March 1 (Reuters) - Chilean retailer Cencosud said on Friday net profit slipped 1.6 percent last year due to rising costs associated with growing debt used to expand in the region.

Profit fell to 269.959 billion pesos ($564 million) last year from 2011, but rose 20.7 percent in the fourth quarter on better operational results and lower taxes.

The retailer, which has more than doubled its stores since 2005 through growth and acquisitions, made its most recent big purchase last year with the $2.6 billion acquisition of French retailer Carrefour SA's Colombian assets.

Chilean retailers like Cencosud and rival Falabella have been flexing their muscles across Latin America as domestic demand booms in much of the region.

SALES JUMP ON AGGRESSIVE EXPANSION

Sales last year jumped 20.3 percent to 9.149 trillion pesos ($19.1 billion) on the back of Cencosud's aggressive expansion plans.

"The 20 percent increase was mostly due to the addition of 157 new stores, including 31 new supermarkets from the Prezunic acquisition (in Brazil) and 39 new home department stores from the Johnson's acquisition (in Chile)," Cencosud said in a statement.

Last month, Cencosud said it expected regional expansion to help boost 2013 sales by about 25 percent to $22.5 billion, a level below that forecast by the company late last year.

The diversified retailer currently operates about 900 supermarkets, department and home improvement stores and shopping malls in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

Shares in Cencosud traded 0.24 percent lower in midday Friday trade, broadly in line with a 0.32 percent drop on Santiago's blue-chip IPSA stock index.

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