UPDATE 1-Brazil's BRF posts first-quarter profit below analysts' estimates

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SAO PAULO, May 12 (Reuters) - Brazilian food processor BRF SA recorded a net profit of 22.4 million reais ($4.22 million) in the first quarter on Wednesday, undershooting the analysts’ consensus estimate of 112.7 million reais.

The result marked an improvement from a 38 million-real loss in the same period last year.

BRF said it sold about 1.1 million tonnes of food products, stable in relation to the year-ago quarter. However, net revenue rose by an annual 18.4% to 10.6 billion reais, driven partly by a 20% rise in prices.

Most of BRF’s food sales were in Brazil, where the company faces a rise in feed costs that compressed its gross margins last quarter. Economic weakness in Brazil also weighed on sales of processed foods, with BRF reporting a 20% drop in the segment’s volumes from the previous quarter.

Internationally, BRF results were bolstered by a 9.6% annual rise in net sales to the Asian market, which totaled 1.5 billion reais. This helped offset a 3.1% fall in volumes sold in that market during the quarter, the company said.

In China, demand for BRF products remained heated for both chicken and pork, with growth of 9% in sales volumes. On the other hand, other Asian markets remained depressed by the effects of the pandemic, BRF said.

According to the BRF earnings statement, the company reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization - a measure of operating income known as EBITDA - of 1.234 billion reais, slightly above a consensus estimate of 1.218 million reais. ($1 = 5.3041 reais) (Reporting by Ana Mano in Sao Paulo Editing by Leslie Adler and Matthew Lewis)