(Adds quotes from CEO and analyst, details on volume expectations)
BOGOTA, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Building material company Cemex Latam Holdings, a subsidiary of Mexican cement maker Cemex, on Wednesday reported a 9 percent drop in third-quarter net profit to $88 million on lower sales.
Net sales fell 3 percent to $460 million from a year earlier as the number of housing construction projects declined, the company said.
"Overall we remain quite optimistic about the strong growth prospects in all of our markets," Chief Executive Officer Carlos Jacks said during a conference call. "We are confident that we have the right commercial strategy."
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell 5 percent to $160 million. Besides fewer housing projects, the company cited a drop in prices for its products.
Cemex Latam is expecting results to improve in the fourth quarter from the third on continued growth in housing, including more government-funded construction, Jacks said.
Brokerage Ultrabursatiles wrote in a note that it considered the results neutral because of the lower sales. But it also cited increased shipping volumes and an increase in margins from the second quarter, when there were one-time maintenance costs.
Cemex Latam's net debt fell 19 percent to $1.08 billion at the close of the quarter from a year earlier.
The company's new plant in the Colombian department of Antioquia will begin producing cement in the second quarter of 2015 and start making clinker cement during the second half of 2016, Jacks said.
Shares of the company, which operates in Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador, were down 2.3 percent at 17,680 Colombian pesos ($8.63).
$1 = 2,048.44 Colombian pesos Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Lisa Von Ahn