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MADRID May 14 (Reuters) - Spanish construction company ACS posted a 12 percent rise in first-quarter core profit thanks to strong earnings from its overseas divisions, particularly German builder Hochtief.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose to 744 million euros ($966 million), though net profit fell 19 percent to 168 million euros because of one-off gains booked at the beginning of 2012 from the sale of services company Clece.
ACS, which has focused on overseas expansion to reduce its exposure to recession-hit Spain, said it cut net debt to 6 billion euros by March 31, down 43 percent on last year thanks to a 2012 restructuring of debt related to stake-building in power company Iberdrola.
ACS borrowed to buy Iberdrola shares with the aim of diversifying, but it had to cut its stake after the value of Iberdrola dropped sharply last year.
The builder now owns about 1 percent of Iberdrola. Previously, the company had owed 4 billion euros on a 14.85 percent stake. ACS posted a net loss in 2012 after writing down the value of its Iberdrola investment.
ACS said it will continue to reduce debt this year through the sale of non-core assets, aiming for a net debt ratio of less than two times EBITDA. ($1 = 0.7705 euros) (Reporting By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by David Goodman)