SAO PAULO, May 17 (Reuters) - Votorantim SA, one of Brazil's biggest industrial conglomerates, on Friday posted a steep rise in first-quarter net profit and a sharp decline in debt, as a result of the partial sale of a stake in pulp maker Fibria SA .
Net income came in at 4.4 billion reais ($1.09 billion) in the period, up from 150 million reais a year ago.
Votorantim sold a stake in pulp maker Fibria to Suzano Papel e Celulose SA for roughly 8 billion reais in a deal concluded in January. It still holds a 5.5% stake in Suzano.
The group's net debt ended March at 10.2 billion reais, down 23% from the end of 2018. This is equivalent to 1.46 times adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), and is below the level of 1.91 times EBITDA in December.
In a statement, Chief Executive João Miranda said Votorantim has reached a comfortable leverage ratio, leaving room for acquisitions. The group is mulling investments in areas such as infrastructure and commercial properties in Brazil. Cement and building materials companies in developed countries are also potential acquisition targets.
First-quarter revenue also grew by 5% year-over-year, to 6.7 billion reais, helped by higher cement and aluminum sales, as well as a depreciation in the Brazilian currency. ($1 = 4.0477 reais) (Reporting by Carolina Mandl Editing by Susan Thomas)