* Q1 net loss of 55 million reais worse than expected
* Adjusted EBITDA of 67.9 million reais misses forecasts
* Cancellations drag on Tenda, Gafisa units
By Asher Levine
SAO PAULO, May 11 (Reuters) - Brazilian homebuilder Gafisa SA posted a worse-than-expected first-quarter net loss as sales cancellations at its low-cost Tenda unit and mid-range Gafisa division dragged on profitability.
Gafisa booked a first quarter net loss of 55 million reais ($27.2 million), compared with a 31.5 million reais loss a year ago, according to a securities filing released late on Friday.
Four of the six analysts polled by Reuters had predicted an average net loss of 27 million reais, while the remaining two had expected a profit of 59 million reais.
Gafisa embarked on a turnaround strategy in October 2011 after a rapid expansion into unfamiliar markets led to huge cost overruns, sales cancellations, and big quarterly losses.
That effort included reorganizing management, focusing new launches on key markets, and halting launches in its low-income Tenda brand, which suffered from canceled contracts as the credit profile of its clients deteriorated.
Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, a gauge of operating profit known as EBITDA, fell 32 percent from a year earlier to 67.9 million reais, missing the average estimate of 101.2 million reais in a Reuters survey.
Canceled Tenda sales continued to weigh on Gafisa’s overall profitability in the first quarter. The Tenda unit posted a 25.5 million reais adjusted operational loss, more than double the loss registered a year ago.
Adjusted EBITDA at the company’s high-end Alphaville unit grew 17 percent to 48.4 million reais from a year earlier.
The middle-to-high-income Gafisa brand posted adjusted operational income of 45 million reais, down 36 percent from a year earlier. The unit was affected by a greater number of sales cancellations due to a stronger pace of unit deliveries in the second half of 2012, the filing said.
Total debt at the company dropped to 94 percent of shareholder equity at the end of March from 114 percent a year earlier. Gafisa executives said in a securities filing last month that they plan to keep debt levels stable in 2013.
Gafisa’s cash burn, a measure of the speed at which cash is spent on new projects, was a negative 89 million reais in the quarter on a cash flow generation of 122 million reais, the filing said.
Gafisa stock spiked in mid-April after local media reported that the company received four offers for its profitable Alphaville unit in a deal that could fetch about 2 billion reais and help pay down debt. Gafisa owns 80 percent of Alphaville and is in arbitration to buy the rest.
In its earnings release on Friday, Gafisa said it would continue to analyze Alphaville’s strategic options and would inform the market as soon as a decision is made.
Potential bidders for Alphaville include Sam Zell’s Equity International, a consortium formed by private-equity firms Patria Investimentos and the Blackstone Group and real estate investment company VBI Real Estate, Valor Econômico newspaper reported last month.