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SAO PAULO, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Brazil's BRF SA, will likely maintain investments of around 2 billion reais ($505 million) in 2016, CEO Pedro Faria said on a conference call on Friday, adding that the Brazilian market could remain a challenge with rising domestic corn prices increasing feed costs and an economic recession curbing demand.
The company also announced several management changes, including the replacement of CFO Augusto Ribeiro with Alexandre Borges who is currently General Manager of Latin America.
Shares of BRF, the world's largest chicken exporter, fell nearly 6 percent in early Sao Paulo trading. Analysts at brokerage Brasil Plural said the changes brought doubts about the company's strategy.
BRF late on Thursday posted a profit of 1.415 billion reais, surpassing forecasts for 866 million reais in a Reuters poll due to better-than-expected sales abroad.
Net income for BRF, also a processed foods maker, rose 42.8 percent from 991 million reais in the same period a year earlier and also ahead of third-quarter results of 877 million reais.
Local corn prices spiked in late 2015 because much of Brazil's crop was exported as a weaker Brazilian currency made exports more competitive abroad, creating isolated shortages on the local market.
Analysts had predicted lower domestic prices for BRF's products combined with higher costs would hurt BRF's performance in late 2015. BRF said higher domestic costs due to the weaker Brazilian currency and the decision to postpone a price increase until 2016 had kept margins in Brazil under pressure.
But overall, the company's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were 1.885 billion reais, compared with the 1.62 billion reais forecast by a Reuters survey of six analysts.
BRF raised priced by 10 percent in the first two months of 2016 and said it could raise them again in line with inflation
Faria said BRF would remain open to acquisition opportunities in 2016, after buying companies including Thailand's Golden Foods Siam in 2015.
In 2016, BRF said it planned to start exporting to Mexico and would continue to make investments in Asia. The company expects to increase exports to Malaysia and China.
On Thursday, Moody's Investors Service downgraded BRF's debt to Ba1 and BRF's board approved a dividend payment of 0.121749293 per outstanding share for 2015.
$1 = 3.96 reais Reporting by Caroline Stauffer, Paula Laier and Alberto Alerigi Editing by W Simon