* Q3 net profit 654.6 mln riyals vs 595.1 mln
* Boosted by sales growth and drop in cost of sales
* To continue focus on cost controls, efficiency gains
(Adds detail, context)
By Tom Arnold
DUBAI, Oct 9 Saudi Arabia's Almarai,
the Gulf's largest dairy company, reported a 10 percent rise in
third-quarter net profit on Sunday, broadly meeting analysts'
forecasts with the help of cost controls it said would remain a
Saudi retailers will in coming quarters have to weather the
impact of austerity measures imposed to curb a huge state budget
deficit, including reducing financial allowances for public
Almarai - the second Saudi retailer after Jarir Marketing
to report third quarter earnings - said the changing
economic environment and increasingly competitive conditions
meant it would continue to focus on cost controls and preserving
Its profit in the three months to Sept. 30 was 654.6 million
riyals ($174.6 million), up from 595.1 million riyals in the
year-earlier period, according to a bourse statement. That was
broadly in line with the average of five analysts' forecasts
polled by Reuters of 627.8 million riyals.
Jarir reported third-quarter net profit of 220 million
riyals on Thursday, up from 218.5 million riyals a year earlier.
Five analysts polled by Reuters had on average forecast 200.6
Almarai said sales rose 2.5 percent, boosted by growth in
its main segments of dairy and juice and bakery, while its cost
of sales dropped 1.1 percent on lower input costs, better cost
management and "enhanced production efficiencies."
(Editing by Andrew Torchia and John Stonestreet)