DUBAI, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Almarai, the Gulf's largest dairy company, reported a 1 percent increase in fourth-quarter net profit on Sunday, meeting analysts' forecasts, as sales rose and cost of sales fell.
Almarai made a profit of 488.5 million riyals ($130.3 million) in the three months to Dec. 31, up from 483.7 million riyals in the year-earlier period, according to a bourse statement.
Six analysts polled by Reuters had forecast on average that Almarai would make a quarterly net profit of 519 million riyals.
Almarai said earnings were hit by a 12.4 million riyals impairment of assets, changes in foreign exchange rates and higher funding costs during the quarter.
Almarai reported quarterly sales of 3.61 billion riyals in the fourth quarter, up 0.7 percent from the same period last year.
Saudi retailers had to contend this year with government austerity measures imposed to curb a state budget deficit, including utility price increases and reduced financial allowances for public sector employees.
Almarai said on Dec. 6 that its board had recommended a cash dividend of 0.9 riyal per share for 2016, lower than the cash dividend of 1.15 riyals for 2015.
$1 = 3.7498 riyals Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Tom Arnold