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AMSTERDAM, April 21 (Reuters) - Dutch chemicals maker AkzoNobel said on Tuesday it is open to bolt-on acquisitions this year after reporting strong first-quarter results, but its focus will continue to be on tight cost control.
The company, which makes paints, speciality chemicals and advanced coatings ranging from the maritime to the construction industries, said the weak euro and cost control had helped it improve revenues across its three business units.
"We are aiming to be cash positive this year," said Chief Financial Officer Maelys Castella in an interview. "We can envisage making a bolt-on acquisition if it makes sense ... in any of our business areas."
The company expects significantly lower restructuring costs in 2015 after shedding thousands of jobs last year.
Volumes were down in AkzoNobel's decorative paints and performance coatings businesses, though revenues were up across the board. Revenue growth was weakest in the decor business, where the first quarter is traditionally weak.
The United States was AkzoNobel's strongest-performing market, while traditionally high-growth economies like China and Brazil were weaker, Castella said.
The European picture was mixed, with France and eastern Europe weighing on performance, she said, adding that the company was now well-placed to benefit from a recovery.
The company reported a return on sales of 8.5 percent and said it was still on track to reach its 9 percent target for 2015. Exchange rate movements and lower growth in emerging markets would be the major performance drivers in 2015.
It earned revenue of 3.6 billion euros ($3.86 billion), up 6 percent on last year, and ahead of the 3.5 billion forecast by analysts polled for Reuters.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of 462 million euros were up 27 percent and ahead of a 402 million euro consensus forecast.
$1 = 0.9315 euros Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt