UPDATE 2-Steinhoff reports $4 billion operating loss in 2017

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JOHANNESBURG, May 7 (Reuters) - South African retailer Steinhoff on Tuesday reported a $4 billion operating loss in the 2017 fiscal year, in a much-delayed earnings report revealing the impact of a $7.4 billion accounting fraud.

Steinhoff, which is also listed in Frankfurt, delayed the results after finding holes in its accounts, shocking investors who had backed its reinvention from small South African furniture outfit into a discount furniture retailer straddling four continents.

The owner of Mattress Firm in the U.S, Fantastic chains in Australia and Conforama in France said operating loss came in at 3.7 billion euros ($4.14 billion) in the year ended September 2017 compared with profit of 278 million euros in the restated 2016 figures.

The company blamed writedowns for the loss as it cleans up its balance after the fraud. The writedowns have already topped 13 billion euros since revealing the fraud that left it on the brink of collapse and wiped out more than 200 billion rand ($13.87 billion) of shareholder equity.

"The consequential impact of reversing the accounting irregularities is the fact that the restatements highlight that several of the groups operating entities are unprofitable," Steinhoff said in a 359-page annual report posted on its website shortly before midnight.

An investigation by auditor PwC released in March found that eight people, including former Steinhoff executives, were involved in a complex scheme where potential intercompany transactions worth 6.5 billion euros were fraudulently recorded as external income to prop up profits and hide costs in money-losing subsidiaries.

Shares in Johannesburg-listed Steinhoff opened more than 8 percent higher on Tuesday. They closed about 1 percent higher.

The retailer has delayed releasing results several times as it waited for the findings of the PwC investigation and audit process of its external auditor Deloitte.

The 2018 results are now due on June 18. ($1 = 0.8954 euros) ($1 = 14.4218 rand) (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Additional reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng, Jane Merriman and Chris Reese)