Fri Feb 21, 2014 7:59am EST

Feb 21 (Reuters) – Brazil’s Gerdau SA beat profit estimates for the fourth quarter as expenses fell faster than revenue in a traditionally weak period for output and sales at the largest steelmaker in the Americas.

According to a securities filing on Friday, Porto Alegre, Brazil-based Gerdau earned 491.6 million reais ($207 million) in profit, above the 427 million reais estimated in a Reuters poll of six analysts. Compared with the third quarter, profit fell 23.4 percent after debt-servicing costs spiked in the wake of a currency decline.

Output and sales fell to the lowest in three quarters, in what might be a further sign of economic weakness afflicting Brazil and the United States – two of Gerdau’s key markets. Sales expenses fell while the performance of revenue, which fell on a quarterly basis, and margins, was lackluster.

Net revenue fell 1.6 percent in the quarter to 10.32 billion reais, in line with the poll’s estimate. Cost of goods sold rose 0.1 percent to 8.97 billion reais, much lower than the 1.8 percent forecast in the poll.

Sales, general and administrative expenses came in at 669 million reais, down 1.6 percent in a quarter-on-quarter basis.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, a measure of profitability known as EBITDA, fell 3 percent to 1.37 billion reais in the fourth quarter. The number beat the poll’s estimate of 1.21 billion reais.

EBITDA fell to 13.3 percent of net revenue at the end of December, above the poll’s estimate of 12.3 percent for the quarter. The so-called EBITDA margin was 13.5 percent in the previous three months.

Company officials will discuss results at a conference call with investors later on Friday.