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Higher margins, volumes in chemicals boost BASF results

BASF SE's earnings rose in the fourth quarter of 2017 from a year earlier, boosted by higher earnings in the chemicals business due to strong margins and higher volumes.

The chemicals maker reported net income of €1.54 billion, or €1.68 per share, for the fourth quarter of 2017, up from €689 million, or 75 euro cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Adjusted EPS was €1.29 for the quarter, up from 79 cents per share in the prior-year quarter and below S&P Capital IQ's consensus normalized EPS estimate of €1.52.

Earnings before interest and tax, or EBIT, before special items was €1.86 billion for the quarter, up from €1.18 billion in the year-ago period. BASF said earnings were significantly higher in the chemicals, agricultural solutions, and oil and gas segments, more than offsetting lower earnings in functional materials and solutions and performance products segments.

Sales rose 8.4% year over year to €16.10 billion in the quarter from €14.85 billion in the prior-year period as sales volumes increased by 4% from a year earlier.

Strong margins and higher volumes in the chemical business fueled a 57% year-over-year increase in the segment's EBIT before special items. EBIT before special items of the agricultural solutions business rose 162% from the year-ago quarter because of higher volumes and improved margins.

For full year 2017, net income was €6.08 billion, or €6.62 per share, up from €4.06 billion, or €4.42 per share, in 2016. Adjusted EPS for 2017 was €6.44, up from €4.83 in the previous year and below S&P Capital IQ's consensus normalized EPS estimate of €6.59. EBIT before special items increased to €8.33 billion in 2017 from €6.31 billion in 2016.

"Thanks to higher margins and increased volumes, we were able to double our earnings in Asia to €2.2 billion, making it the most profitable region for BASF," said Kurt Bock, chairman of the board of executive directors of BASF.

For 2018, BASF expects volume growth to contribute to a slight increase in sales from 2017.

Significant contributions from the performance products, functional materials and solutions, and oil and gas segments should result in slightly higher earnings in 2018 than the previous year. However, EBIT before special items of the chemicals segment is projected to be lower for the year due to decreased margins.

The company said its outlook for 2018 assumes global economic growth of 3.0% and global chemical production growth of 3.4%.