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* Net profit was $3.11 bln, net sales $10.94 bln
* EBITDA rose 6.76 pct to $4.16 bln, but misses outlook
* Profit follows Q4 loss
By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO, April 24 (Reuters) - Brazil's Vale SA , the world's second-largest mining company, said on Wednesday that first quarter net profit fell 18 percent from a year earlier, beating expectations.
Results were hurt by lower sales, higher tax payments and weaker currency gains.
Profit at the company was $3.11 billion in the three months ending March 31 compared with $3.79 billion a year earlier, according to a filing with Brazil's securities regulator. This beat the $2.71 billion average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Reuters.
Net sales, or sales minus sales taxes, fell 5.34 percent to $10.94 billion compared with $11.55 billion in the first quarter of 2012. The sales figure missed the $11.49 billion average analyst estimate.
Still, Vale's results reverses the company's fourth-quarter loss of $2.70 billion, its first negative quarterly result in a decade.
Vale is the world's largest producer of iron ore, the main ingredient in steel. It is the second-largest producer of nickel, which is used to make steel rust resistant.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, was $4.16 billion, 6.76 percent more than $3.89 billion a year ago. The figure missed the average analysts' estimate of $4.93 billion.