(New throughout, adds background on shareholder battle)
By Stephen Eisenhammer
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Brazilian steelmaker Usiminas posted a net loss of 117 million reais ($41.3 million) in the fourth quarter due to low steel demand from a stalling local economy and falling iron ore prices, the company said on Wednesday after delaying its results for several days.
Shares of Usinas Siderurgicas de Minas Gerais SA, as the company is formally known, were up 4.4 percent at 3.76 reais at 1727 GMT in Sao Paulo. Traders expressed relief the company had published results.
The loss was in line with the average analyst forecast of 118.81 million reais for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The steelmaker had been scheduled to report results Friday, but the board refused to approve the report. It gave no reason for the delay and did not say when the results might be released.
On Wednesday, there was no immediate information on whether the dispute with the board had been cleared up, but the release of results was approved by a majority of board members with one vote against.
A delay past the end of March would have put the company in breach of Brazilian stock market regulations and might have meant breaking loan agreements.
Usiminas has been rocked in recent months by a tussle between two steel giants that control the company through their share holdings: Ternium SA and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.
The two parties have been at odds since the previous chief executive Julian Eguren, a former Ternium executive, was pushed out over accusations of “inappropriate receipts of money.”
It was not clear whether Friday’s delay had been due to this shareholder battle, with one source saying it was and another saying the unanimous nature of the vote not to publish results showed a growing consensus on both sides that mistakes had been made by previous management.
The quarterly net loss reported on Wednesday compared with a profit of 47 million reais in the same period last year and reflects the deteriorating fortunes of Brazil’s steel industry.
Usiminas, Brazil’s largest producer of flat steel used predominantly in the auto industry, is suffering from a historic slump in car sales.
The downturn looks set to continue with automobile sales down nearly 19 percent in January from a year earlier, according to Fenabrave, a dealership association. Fenabrave forecasts a drop in auto sales for the third straight year in 2015. ($1 = 2.83 Brazilian reais) (Additional reporting by Asher Levine and Alberto Alerigi Jr.; editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Matthew Lewis and David Gregorio)