Spain's Telefonica, Europe's second-largest phone company, today said its net profit more than doubled in the first quarter thanks to a one-off financial boost from the sale of its British unit O2. 

The carrier posted a forecast-beating net profit in the period of €1.8 billion, up from €688m during the same time last year. Analysts had predicted a first quarter result of €669m. 

Telefonica in March sold British telecom giant O2 to Hong Kong group Hutchison Whampoa for €14 billion. 

Proceeds from the sale of O2 have been largely earmarked to reduce Telefonica's debt pile which stood at €45.6 billion at the end of March. 

The company, with operations across Europe and Latin America, said its sales rose 12.6% to €11.54 billion as growth in Germany offset weakness in Brazil and a further contraction of its domestic market. 

Revenues in Germany jumped 69.4% thanks to the acquisition of E-Plus and a "significantly higher contribution of handset revenues", it said in a statement.

Revenues in Spain, which is struggling with a jobless rate of 23.8%, fell 3.8% while in Brazil they inched up by 4.8%. 

Brazil, Germany and Spain account for 66% of Telefonica's sales.