JBS, the Brazil-based meat processor, said today (15 May) that its first-quarter losses widen due to financial expenses and losses at its Argentine unit.

During the period to 31 March, the company’s net loss grew to BRL322.7m (US$154m), from a loss of BRL6.6m in the first quarter of 2008.

Net revenue, however, rose to BRL9.26bn from BRL5.8bn in the year-ago period.

“Due to the tightening of the global credit market and the reduced availability of credit lines in the international financial markets, we refocused concentrating on the financial health of our company instead of following a continued growth strategy,” said JBS president Joesley Mendonça Batista.

“For a year now, we have not looked at acquisitions and in the meantime, we have rapidly deleveraged our company leading us to a strong cash position in a protein market, which is demonstrating promising improvements. We are ready to grow again.”

EBITDA rose to BRL211.5m from BRL175.7m in the comparable period of 2008.

At the end of the period, the company’s net debt stood at BRL4.17bn, up from BRL3.3bn at the end of 2008.