February 15, 2019 / 3:42 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil's Usiminas more than doubles profit in 2018

(Adds details from earnings call with analysts)

SAO PAULO, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Brazilian steelmaker Usinas Siderurgicas de Minas Gerais on Friday reported a profit of 830 million reais ($223 million) for 2018, more than double its earnings from a year ago.

The company is optimistic that prices will continue to rise, executives said separately in a conference call with analysts, forecasting they may increase up to 10 percent in the second half of the year.

Brazil’s steelmakers benefited from higher metal prices in 2018 amid the trade dispute between the United States and China. Although its main competitors, Gerdau and Companhia Siderurgica Nacional, have yet to post 2018 results, the industry as a whole has posted significant profits in recent quarters.

Company executives also said they were close to finalizing an agreement with Brazil’s auto industry for a 25 percent price increase for the steel used for carmaking.

$1 = 3.7184 reais Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Mark Potter

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