UPDATE 1-Essilor predicts relatively flat profits ahead of Luxottica deal

* Revenue growth this year targeted at around 4 pct

2017 core margin down at 18.2 pct

* Pins hopes on "new chapter" on back of Luxottica deal (Adds details, context)

PARIS, March 1 (Reuters) - Essilor, the world's largest maker of ophthalmic lenses, predicted higher sales this year as it prepares to merge with Italy's Luxottica, although it warned of slow growth regarding its core margins.

The French company, famous for its Varilux lenses technology, said on Thursday it targeted revenue growth at constant currencies and perimeters of around 4 percent.

The contribution from operations, a figure that strips out the cost of sales and operating expenses, is expected at a minimum of 18.3 percent of revenue compared to a reported figure of 18.2 percent in 2017, and down from 18.6 percent in 2016.

"Once completed, the combination with Luxottica will open a new chapter for us," Chief Executive Hubert Sagnieres said in a statement.

Essilor and Luxottica announced a 48 billion euros ($58.53 billion) merger last year to create a global eyewear powerhouse with annual revenues of more than 15 billion euros.

The deal, which will bring about a global shops network and brands from Ray Ban to Giorgio Armani and Burberry, is expected to close during the first half of 2018 but still needs regulatory clearance in Europe, the United States and China.

Investors are also keeping a close eye on the management structure of the new company that will arise from the merger.

Sagnieres, who is set to share powers with Luxottica's chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio for an initial three years timeframe, said in December that the merged group would look to appoint a new CEO.

Revenues at Essilor last year rose 3.1 percent on a like-for-like basis to 7.5 billion euros, partly helped by higher sales in north America.

Luxottica, which has been undergoing a restructuring since 2014, forecast on Monday steady growth in sales and profits this year.

($1 = 0.8201 euros) (Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)