SANTIAGO, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Chilean retailer Cencosud's second-quarter net profit unexpectedly plummeted 78 percent due to higher debt levels following purchases as well as exchange rate fluctuations, the company said on Friday.
Net profit at Cencosud dropped to 7.976 billion pesos, or $15.8 million. The market was expecting net profit to increase to $75.7 million, according to a Reuters poll.
Acquisition-hungry retailer Cencosud has aggressively expanded in South America, lured by a growing middle class with easy access to credit.
One of its most high-profile purchases was the $2.6 billion acquisition of French retailer Carrefour's Colombian assets last year.
Cencosud's income increased 14 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, in part due to a consolidation of supermarket operations in Colombia.
But the retailer may face a challenge in coming months as consumption slows in many booming South American countries and currency fluctuations pressure its bottom line.
The pace of consumption growth in Latin America is set to slow this year, according to a United Nations body, as the region feels the pinch from softer demand in key trade partner China.
The retailer's first half net profit fell 69 percent year-on-year to around $56 million.
Cencosud operates in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru, countries that account for 63 percent of Latin America's gross domestic product, according to the retailer.
Still, around 40 percent of the Santiago-based company's net revenue is generated in Chile, according to Cencosud data for the March 2012 to March 2013 period.
Neighboring Argentina and regional powerhouse Brazil were second and third in revenue generation in the period, contributing 27 percent and 23 percent respectively.