UPDATE 1-Pearson says restructuring to support underlying profit growth

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LONDON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Pearson said plans to cut staff and sell assets would help the education group eke out underlying growth in 2018 while its North American business continued to weigh on performance.

Hit by the shift to digital from paper textbooks, Pearson has cut thousands of jobs and launched a rental and online business following a string of profit warnings.

It said pressures in North America had continued as retail partners remained cautious, with sales in U.S. higher education courseware down 3 percent on an underlying basis, in line with the lower end of its revised guidance range.

It expects those problems to continue in 2018, it said.

Pearson now expects 2017 adjusted operating profit of around 570 million to 575 million pounds, lower than previously indicated, reflecting currency changes.

For 2018 it expects a profit of 520 million to 560 million pounds which it said would constitute underlying growth when taking account of asset sales and currency moves.

"Our restructuring program is on track and our 2017 performance has set us up well to make further progress against our strategic priorities and grow profit in 2018," Chief Executive John Fallon said.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Paul Sandle and Jason Neely)