(Adds CEO and analyst comments, share price, financial details)
By Gabriela Mello
SAO PAULO, April 30 (Reuters) - Brazil's Multiplan , one of the largest mall operators in the country, expects stronger second-quarter sales based partly on higher consumer traffic in April, executives told analysts on Tuesday.
"Only in the first half of April, our malls recorded a 6 percent growth in traffic", Chief Executive Officer José Isaac Peres said on a conference call to discuss earnings.
He added that other performance indicators, including same-store rent, should also improve as a result of recent shopkeeper turnover and revitalization efforts. "We are bringing new activities, more entertainment to our malls," he said.
Multiplan shares were down 2.5 percent at 23.54 reais in early afternoon in Sao Paulo, after the company posted a 6.3 percent drop in first-quarter net income to 91.9 million reais ($23.3 million), reflecting a still-sluggish Brazilian economy.
Analysts at Credit Suisse said first-quarter results were weaker as expected and that the company would have to wait a while before beginning to book rent revenue from new shopkeepers, given a rent-free grace period in the contract.
"As of the second quarter we should see the company resuming growth in sales and rent revenues, with the new projects announced," CS analysts wrote in a note to clients, while maintaining an "outperform" rating.
Multiplan Chief Financial Officer Armando d'Almeida Neto added that Multiplan's current leverage should allow the company to explore additional investment opportunities. ($1 = 3.9424 reais) (Reporting by Gabriela Mello in Sao Paulo Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)