UPDATE 1-E.ON posts higher first quarter profit after Gazprom deal

(Adds detail, quotes, context)

* Helped by settlement of gas prices row

* Other improvements in gas trading, regions, wind

* Focus remains on the group’s ongoing split

FRANKFURT, May 11 (Reuters) - E.ON, Germany’s largest utility, reported an eight percent rise in first-quarter core earnings on Wednesday, citing a one-off price-cutting deal for gas purchases and saying the split-up of the group remained top of the agenda.

“Our first-quarter results indicate that parts of our traditional operating business remain under pressure,” said chief financial officer Michael Sen.

“That’s why it’s all the more important that since the start of the year, E.ON’s transformation has moved forward according to plan,” he added.

The gas deal reached with Russian supplier Gazprom in March allowed E.ON to release some of the provisions it had made in prior years.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were at 3.1 billion euros ($3.5 billion) in the first three months of the year, higher than the 2.91 billion average analyst forecast in a Reuters poll.

Without the Gazprom deal, the first quarter result would have been slightly below that of the same period last year, E.ON said.

The firm cited pressure in its traditional power plant unit, which it aims to spin off later this year.

It said there had been some operational improvements in gas trading, regional improvements in Britain, Sweden and Romania, and it had taken two new offshore wind power generation plants and one new coal-fired plant in the Netherlands on stream.

Uniper, the power plant and energy trading business E.ON is planning to spin off, in late April promised cost cuts, asset sales and a dividend in its battle to keep investors on board despite faltering markets.

The demise of fossil-fuel based power plants had caused E.ON to post a net loss of 7 billion euros for 2015, its biggest ever.

The E.ON business without Uniper will focus on energy networks, services and renewable energy.

The annual shareholders meeting in June is to decide on Uniper’s separate listing and allow the remaining E.ON to focus on decentralised energy and reap stable income from regulated energy business.

The latter will account for two thirds of its future results, chairman Johannes Teyssen said in a letter to shareholders.

$1 = 0.8786 euros Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Elaine Hardcastle