We have posted to our website a short slide presentation that we will be referring to during the call. The slides are also available to those of you on the webcast.Before we begin, let me remind you that certain matters discussed in this conference call, as indicated on Slide 2 of our presentation, contain forward-looking statements, which are subject to risk and uncertainties. Description of these risk and uncertainties are detailed in the company's SEC reports, including our most recent report on Form 10-K. In addition, during this call, management will refer to certain non-GAAP financial measures, including EBITDA, adjusted EBITDA and adjusted diluted EPS for continuing operations. These measures are not prepared in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. You can find a reconciliation of these non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures and other related information in Vulcan's first quarter 2012 earnings release and in the Investor Relations section of Vulcan's website at vulcanmaterials.com. I would now like to walk you through our first quarter results. As you saw in the press release we issued this morning, we began 2012 with another strongly improved quarter. Our results were substantially better compared to the first quarter of last year. Net sales were approximately $500 million. This is a 10% increase from the first quarter of 2011. Although some of this year-over-year growth is attributable to milder weather, we also benefited from the continued recovery of our markets, particularly in the demand for Aggregates, combined with the strength of our market positions. Gross profit for the first quarter increased $29 million from the first quarter of 2011, reflecting sales growth in every segment and the favorable earnings effect of improved productivity and cost reduction. Gross profit as a percent of net sales increased 600 basis points from the same period last year.
When making year-over-year comparisons of earnings and EBITDA, it's important to note a few items that impact these comparisons. One, the first quarter of 2012 included $10 million of cost related to Martin Marietta's unsolicited offer. Two, the first quarter of 2012 also included a $6 million gain on the sale of real estate in California. And three, in the first quarter of last year, the company received approximately $25.5 million in an insurance arbitration award for the recovery of settlement and legal cost related to a loss we had settled in 2010. Excluding these items, EBITDA increased to $46 million in the first quarter of 2012 compared to $5 million of EBITDA in the prior year.Earnings from continuing operations, excluding the items I highlighted, were a loss of $0.42 per diluted share in the first quarter of 2012 compared to a loss of $0.62 per diluted share in the same period last year. Further enhancing operating earnings, SAG expenses decreased by $13 million or 17% compared to the prior-year period. This decrease was due mainly to cost reduction initiatives undertaken in 2011. In addition, the Profit Enhancement Plan we announced in February is well underway, and will generate significant additional savings and profit enhancements. John McPherson will update you on that shortly. Turning to our segment results on Slide 4, our Aggregate segment performed very well, reflecting continued market recovery and favorable weather. Segment revenues, which include sales to our Asphalt and Concrete businesses, increased approximately $24 million or roughly 7% from the prior-year period. And gross profit increased $23 million. Aggregate revenues reflect stronger demand, including increased demand from our Asphalt and Concrete operations, as well as generally stable pricing. First quarter Aggregate shipments increased 10% from the prior year, and coupled with lower unit cost of sales, led to a sharp increase in Aggregate's gross profit margin. Shipments increased in almost all of our geographic markets. Our operations in California and Virginia continued their trend of achieving much stronger than average volume gains from the prior year.
Our Aggregates businesses in 8 other states also achieved double-digit volume gains over the prior year's first quarter, most notably key states like Florida, Texas and Alabama. These increases were due mainly to large infrastructure project work, primarily highways, some improvement in private construction activity, as well as favorable weather conditions.Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com