Brazilian steelmaker Gerdau SA said on Wednesday it plans to take full ownership of its North American unit in a deal valued at up to $1.7 billion as it seeks to cut debt servicing costs.

Gerdau, Latin America's largest steelmaker, plans to buy all shares of Gerdau Ameristeel Corp it doesn't already own for $11 each in cash, the company said in a securities filing. The Rio de Janeiro-based company owns 66.3 percent of Gerdau Ameristeel.

Gerdau plans to pay for the takeover with cash in hand and loan commitments already arranged with banks. As a wholly-owned unit, Gerdau Ameristeel would benefit from Gerdau's higher corporate debt ratings, the Brazilian company said.

(Reporting by Elzio Barreto, editing by Dave Zimmerman)