(Adds details throughout on project launches, sales, costs, dividends, and management commentary)
By Gram Slattery
SAO PAULO, March 22 (Reuters) - Cyrela Brazil Realty SA , Latin America's largest homebuilder, beat fourth-quarter profit estimates on Thursday, as the company began more aggressively liquidating its extensive land bank.
In a securities filing, the company posted a net profit of 48.8 million reais ($14.7 million), up 58 percent from last year and well above a Reuters consensus estimate of 16.3 million reais.
Cyrela also announced an extraordinary dividend of 200 million reais, which the management said could be justified given the firm's "conservative debt profile."
Total contracted sales at Cyrela rose 15 percent to 1.25 billion reais, while both new project launches and the value of the company's property bank fell slightly from the same period a year before.
The figures, which were partially divulged in January, indicate that Cyrela, like lower-scale competitor MRV Engenharia e Participacoes SA, is starting to focus on monetizing the extensive real estate portfolio it has accumulated on the backside of a years-long recession in Brazil.
Cyrela said in a statement the company was aided by improving economic indicators, including low interest rates. But they emphasized that home borrowing rates had not fallen as fast as Brazil's benchmark rate, while unemployment remained high.
They also said sales cancellations, long an issue for Brazilian real estate developers, continued to present challenges.
In the remarks, management described the company's fourth-quarter cash flow generation of 245 million reais as the period's "principal standout."
General and administrative expenses rose a fairly modest 5 million reais, or 5 percent from the same period a year earlier, while selling expenses fell 10 percent. ($1 = 3.32 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Gram Slattery; editing by Cynthia Osterman, G Crosse)