BASF Chief Upholds 2013 Earnings Forecast After Strong Q3
At the start of the year's fourth quarter, BASF is on track to match its 2012 sales and earnings figures again in 2013, despite the continued "challenging" environment and the fact that no upturn in the global economy is yet in sight, CEO Kurt Bock said in a telephone conference with journalists.
In the third quarter, group sales rose by 1.5% year-on-year to €17.7 billion, due mainly to higher volumes, particularly in the Oil & Gas segment. EBIT before special items increased by €221 million to nearly €1.7 billion. Along with oil and gas, Bock attributed the "robust" quarterly performance to higher earnings contributions from the Functional Material & Solutions and Performance Products business segments.
All segments except Chemicals and Oil & Gas matched or increased EBIT before special items against the 2012 quarter. In the first segment, the 7% decline was blamed on lower selling prices, especially for monomers. In the second, the 15% earnings setback despite a sales increase of 25% was attributed to lower volumes in Libya and a lower contribution from natural gas trading.
The 9% rise in EBIT of the Performance Products reflected good "fixed cost management," the group said. The aim going forward is to further improve the business's performance by restructuring assets acquired from Ciba, a move that will cost 650 jobs.
In Functional Materials, BASF said all businesses contributed "significantly" to the 30% EBIT improvement, even in the face of unfavourable foreign currency translations. Agricultural Solutions held steady despite the negative currency headwind, with earnings flat at €172m.
Speaking to journalists, the CEO of the world's largest chemical producers renewed his appeal to the country's not yet constituted government to reform the Renewable Energy Act. If BASF had the same favourable energy prices as the U.S., group earnings would be half a million euros higher, he said. Bock also warned that Germany's high prices could drive energy-intensive companies out of the country.
Together with Norwegian fertilizer producer Yara International, the German group - which already has a substantial U.S. presence - is mulling plans to build a world scale ammonia plant on the Gulf Coast, with output expected to be largely for BASF's captive use. Bock said his group could have "more ideas" for leveraging North America's cheap shale gas-derived ethane advantage.