BASF sees Q1 profit fall after one-time gains last year; farm chemical sales up

FRANKFURT – Chemicals and oil company BASF SE said Friday its net profit fell 15 per cent in the first quarter from a year ago, when one-time gains from the sale of its fertilizer business boosted earnings.

Otherwise, the company said it had a good quarter, with global revenues up on stronger sales at its oil and farm chemicals businesses.

Net profit fell to 1.45 billion euros ($1.9 billion) from 1.7 billion euros in the first quarter of 2012, when the company had one-time gains of 645 million euros from selling its fertilizer business in Antwerp, Belgium, to Russia’s EuroChem. Revenues for the quarter rose 4.8 per cent to 19.74 billion euros.

The company reaffirmed its outlook for the year, saying it would improve on last year’s sales and earnings. Profit for the quarter beat analysts’ expectations of 1.365 billion euros as compiled by financial information provider FactSet.

BASF shares rose 2.4 per cent to 70.00 euros in morning trading in Europe.

A more detailed look at the results showed that sales and profits jumped at the farm chemicals division thanks to a good start to the growing season in France, Germany and eastern Europe with strong demand for weed killer and fungicides. It said division sales were boosted by the addition of Becker Underwood, the Ames, Iowa-based maker of seed treatments and crop protection products.

The company also said that sales and earnings declined at its specialized chemicals business, which saw lower profit margins due to higher raw materials costs.

However, BASF gave a cautious outlook for the global economy.

It said it expects global economic growth to pick up “only slightly in 2013” and that the market environment “remains volatile.”

BASF, which is based in Ludwigshafen, Germany, provides a good insight into the state of the global economy as it makes ingredients or raw materials for a wide range of industries including aerospace, farming, autos, construction, mass transit, packaging, consumer care and pharmaceuticals.