UPDATE 1-Akzo Nobel Q1 core profit jumps 43% on strong growth in Asia

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AMSTERDAM, April 21 (Reuters) - Dutch paints and coatings maker Akzo Nobel said on Wednesday its first-quarter core profit jumped 43% to 307 million euros ($369.2 million), as economic recovery boosted demand especially in Asia.

Analysts polled by the company had expected adjusted operating income to increase to 275 million euros, after a 214 million euros result a year earlier.

Sales improved 10% to 2.26 billion euros in the January-March period, easily beating the average projection of a 3% rise.

“We delivered very strong results for the quarter,” Chief Executive Officer Thierry Vanlancker said in a statement.

“Going forward, we’ll remain focused on offsetting higher raw material costs with pricing initiatives and cost discipline.”

In the first quarter, cost cuts managed to offset the effect of the rapid rise in prices for raw materials such as oil, the maker of the Dulux and Flexa brands of paints said.

Rising input prices will, however, remain a challenge in the second and third quarters, the company said, as it predicted a 50 basis point increase in its return on sales for this year. ($1 = 0.8315 euros) (Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)