(Adds CFO comments, details)
By Gabriela Mello
SAO PAULO, April 25 (Reuters) - Brazil's largest fashion retailer, Lojas Renner SA, reported on Thursday a quarterly net profit that was 45 percent higher year-on-year and greatly exceeded market expectations, helped by double-digit sales growth despite a sluggish economy.
In a securities filing, the company said it posted a first-quarter net profit of 161.6 million reais ($40.93 million), based on new international accounting standards known as IFRS.
Analysts had projected a profit of 128.2 million reais in the period, according to consensus estimates compiled by Refinitiv.
Same-store sales growth accelerated 12.7 percent, compared with 6.3 percent a year ago. Net revenue increased 18 percent to 1.65 billion reais, while operational costs fell 4.6 percent. As a result, net margin rose 1.8 percentage point to 9.8 percent.
Based in the southern city of Porto Alegre, Lojas Renner has successfully transitioned from a traditional department store to a profitable, tech-savvy, fast-fashion retailer.
"April is evolving according to our expectations and we have important retail events ahead of us such as Mother's Day and Valentine's," Chief Financial Officer Laurence Gomes said in a phone interview, referring to expectations for the second quarter.
He said the company planned to invest 700 million reais in 2019, including a new 150,000-square-metre (1.6 million-square-foot) distribution center in the southeast region of Brazil.
Lojas Renner is also accelerating online sales, Gomes added, without providing details, as the retailer does not disclose such numbers.
Lojas Renner shares closed 5.8 percent higher on Thursday at 45.85 reais, more than the 1.6 percent rise of the benchmark Bovespa index.
$1 = 3.9537 reais Reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney