* Net income rises 70 pct from year ago, above forecasts
* Group trimming executive ranks since Casino takeover
SAO PAULO, April 29 Grupo Pão de Açúcar
, Brazil's biggest retailer, posted a 70
percent rise in quarterly profit on Monday as it thinned its
executive ranks and reduced financial expenses in the face of
First-quarter net income of 275 million reais ($138 million)
beat an average forecast of 244 million reais in a Reuters
survey of eight analysts.
The robust earnings came despite Brazilians' slowing wage
growth and eroding consumer confidence, highlighting the
benefits of Pão de Açúcar's strong market position and economies
of scale that it continues to discover.
The group offset pressure on its supermarkets division,
where food inflation has hurt sales, with cost savings in its
Viavarejo appliance and home furnishings unit, which was formed
through mergers that received final approval this month.
French group Casino Guichard Perrachon, which
gained control of Pão de Açúcar in June last year, has also
shaken up management ranks, leading to a "tighter and more agile
decision-making structure," according to the earnings release.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and
amortization, a gauge of operating profit known as EBITDA, rose
11 percent to 862 million reais, slightly below an average
estimate of 874 million reais.
The group cut financial expenses by 24 percent to 254
million reais in the quarter, due in part to a lower benchmark
interest rate and tighter control of receivables.