The worst is apparently over at Vulcabras, as the Brazilian company reported its first operating profit before amortization for the first quarter of 2012. The parent company of Azaleia, Dijan, Opanka and Olympikus turned around to positive Ebitda of 25.2 million reais (€9.9m-$12.6m) for the quarter from negative Ebitda of R$101.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The company has decided to compare its quarterly results on a sequential basis rather than year-on-year in order to convince the market that it is making good progress after an “annus horribilis” in which it recorded its first loss in nine years and closed seven factories, laying off 8,824 people.

While the first quarter is generally weak, the group's net sales were off by only 4.9 percent to R$378.7 million (€149.2m-$189.8m) from the fourth quarter of 2011, and the operating loss (Ebit) improved from 32.3 to 0.7 percent of sales. Vulcabras still made a net loss of R$37.9 million (€14.9m-$19.0m) in the latest period, but it was 77.6 percent better than in the fourth quarter of last year.

Vulcabras' revenues from sports shoes – sold under the Olympikus and Reebok brand names – were down by only 0.3 percent to R$322.9 million (€127.3m-$161.9m), compared with the depressed level of the fourth quarter, but they showed a drop of 18.6 percent to R$214.3 million (€84.5m-$107.4m) in Brazil. This was offset only in part by a sales increase of 82.3 percent in terms of U.S. dollars in Argentina and other foreign markets, mostly in Latin America. Average selling prices in this segment were raised by 3.7 percent in Brazil and by 50.4 percent elsewhere.

Sales of women's shoes, boots and other products, except for clothing, went down by 22.3 percent to R$92.7 million (€36.5m -$46.5m). They declined by 27.0 percent at home, while increasing by 2.5 percent abroad. Average selling prices increased by 7.0 percent in Brazil and by 9.8 percent elsewhere.

A drop in interest rates in Brazil led to a 9.6 percent in interest charges, but the company's net debt remained high and rose by a further 1.2 percent in the three months to R$1,070 million (€421.7m-$536.4m).