BASF strategy

Getting the Chemistry Right

BASF is adding a new business to its portfolio.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    BASF has largely been a bystander in the recent consolidation and acquisition frenzy in the chemicals industry but may now have to get involved to remain competitive.

  • Facts


    • As well as producing chemicals, 151-year-old BASF has interests in gas, oil and agriculture.
    • In 2015, sales were about €70.4 billion ($79.7 billion) and profits €6.7 billion.
    • Its competitors include DuPont, Dow Chemical and ChemChina.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

The office of Kurt Bock, the chief executive of German chemicals giant BASF, is in a late 19th-century brick building in Ludwigshafen, a city on the Rhine river in western Germany. The building contrasts strongly with the company’s brand new administration and conference center next door, which is where the interview took place.

In a way, the two buildings symbolize the challenges faced by the 151-year-old company, which is the world’s largest producer of chemicals. BASF must continually modernize while relying on its traditional business base, and this paradox is causing trouble at the firm. But Mr. Bock, company head for five years and also chairman of the board of executive directors, shows a fighting spirit: BASF will succeed in transforming in the coming years.

He spoke to Handelsblatt about belt-tightening, high dividends, acquisitions, the threat from China, industry consolidation and the effects of low oil prices.

Handelsblatt: Mr. Bock, when you took office, you promised to leave BASF in better condition than you found it. You are now at the halfway point in your term in office, but BASF’s condition seems worse.

Kurt Bock: That depends on what you base it on.

Sales, profits, return on investment – everything is in decline.

At the moment, our profits are being influenced by prices over which we have no control. We are operating in a deflationary environment, not just with the oil and gas business. But the important point here is that we have continued to improve our medium- and long-term competitiveness. And it also isn’t the case that we weren’t profitable. Compared to German industry, we are quite profitable.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.