March 8, 2018 / 7:29 AM / in 7 months

UPDATE 1-Akzo Nobel expects cost and currency pressure to continue

(Adds more detail, CEO quote)

AMSTERDAM, March 8 (Reuters) - Dutch paints and coatings maker Akzo Nobel expects rising raw materials costs and adverse currency effects to continue in 2018, it said on Thursday.

Akzo also said it was still on track for the separation of its speciality chemicals division by next month, with four binding bids expected in the coming weeks, while also preparing a demerger via a stock listing.

"Of course value is an important factor, but by no means the only factor," Chief Executive Thierry Vanlancker told reporters. "We have wider conversations with the interested parties to look at what their plans with the company are."

Akzo last year decided to split off the division, either via a direct sale or a separate stock listing, as it fended off an unsolicited 26 billion euro ($32.2 billion) takeover offer from U.S. rival PPG industries.

The maker of Dulux paint confirmed preliminary results for 2017, which showed virtually flat earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) at 1.53 billion euros on revenue up 3 percent at 14.6 billion euros.

Akzo is trying to recover from a turbulent 2017, in which it angered major shareholders by rejecting PPG's advances, launched an unsuccesful bid to acquire U.S. coatings maker Axalta and issued several profit warnings.

Vanlancker said the outlook for the speciality chemicals business remained strong after core profit at the division rose 10 percent in 2017 to 689 million euros and sales increased by 4 percent to 5 billion euros.

Akzo expects rising raw materials costs to mostly weigh on results in the first half of the year, becoming less of a burden in the second half.

It said developments at its decorative paints business will remain positive, while it sees no real recovery in the struggling marine and protective coatings operation. ($1 = 0.8065 euros)

Reporting by Bart Meijer Editing by David Goodman

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