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Brazil's Eletrobras posts steep loss, to invest $26.8 bln by 2018

(Adds earnings release, context)

By Asher Levine

SAO PAULO, March 28 (Reuters) - Brazilian state-run electricity utility Eletrobras posted a net loss of 5.5 billion reais ($2.42 billion) for the fourth quarter as it continued to adapt to government-mandated tariff reductions, the company said on Friday.

The figure compares to a net loss of 10.5 billion reais a year earlier and a 915 million reais loss in the third quarter.

Eletrobras agreed in late 2012 to a government plan to renew expiring hydroelectric dam concessions in exchange for electricity rate cuts of between 18 percent and 32 percent.

The changes weighed on profits throughout the year and continued to hamper the company as net revenue dropped to 6 billion reais from 8.2 billion reais a year earlier.

Operational provisions totaled about 3.7 billion reais in the quarter due to the write-down of some generation assets, including 532.5 million reais of assets from its Eletronuclear division.

The company is struggling to adapt to the new reality of lower rates by cutting costs and reorganizing its management structure, which is spread across a range of subsidiary companies.

Eletrobras expects to wrap up the restructuring by July, according to a securities filing on Friday, and plans to invest 60.8 billion reais ($26.8 billion) through 2018 on expanding and modernizing its generation, transmission and distribution assets.

Last year the company said it planned to spend 1.4 billion reais to cut 5,000 jobs as it embarks on a three-year turnaround effort aimed at slashing costs by 30 percent.

On Friday Eletrobras said 4,200 employees had taken part in buyout offers last year, which should lead to 1.13 billion reais in savings. Fourth quarter results showed a 44 percent increase in personnel, material and services expenses from a year earlier, partly due to costs related to the buyout program.

At 11:24 a.m. (1424 GMT), Eletrobras' common shares were up 0.5 percent.

The shares soared almost 10 percent on Thursday after a poll showed a decline in President Dilma Rousseff's approval rating. Traders said a new, more business-friendly administration would be more likely to help the company return to profitability.

($1 = 2.27 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Cesar Bianconi; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Meredith Mazzilli)