AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands - Akzo Nobel N.V. reported a solid first quarter with positive developments in all three business areas despite a challenging market environment.

First-quarter operating income increased 42 percent to €306 million, reflecting the effects of process optimization efforts, reduced restructuring expenses, lower costs and favorable currency effects. Revenues of €3,591 million were up 6 percent compared with the same period last year. An 8 percent impact of currency translation effects was offset by lower volumes, reflecting a slow start to the year. Profitability improved, with return on sales at 8.5 percent compared with 6.4 percent last year.

Decorative Paints achieved a solid growth in profitability, with operating income and revenue both increasing. Revenue was up 3 percent compared with 2014, due to a 7 percent favorable currency effect, but was offset by an adverse volume impact and the sale of the German stores. Operating income showed a clear improvement with an increase of 194 percent, mainly due to the benefits of the company’s new operating model in Europe, strict cost containment, lower restructuring costs and favorable currency developments. Volumes for the first quarter were up in Latin America, but down in Asia and Europe due to a slow start of the season.

Performance Coatings continued to benefit from the delayering and simplification of its business structure. Revenue was up in all businesses, benefiting from favorable currency effects and price/mix. Operating income increased 35 percent due to cost reductions generated by improvement activities, including the simplification of the business structure, cost control measures, currencies and lower restructuring expenses. Volumes increased in North America but declined in other regions, with performance across segments being mixed regionally.

Specialty Chemicals further improved its profitability. Revenue was up 6 percent as a result of favorable currency effects. Operating income rose 21 percent versus last year due to continuous improvement measures, cost focus, lower restructuring costs and favorable currency developments. Volumes were flat overall, with a mixed and volatile picture across segments and regions. Volumes in the United States continued to perform well, while there was more modest growth in China.

Looking forward, the company anticipates that exchange rate movements and lower growth rates in high-growth economies will principally determine the dynamics of 2015. The preparations made in 2013 and 2014 form a sound basis for improved performance. AkzoNobel remains on track to deliver its 2015 targets, which are 9.0 percent return on sales and 14.0 percent return on investment.