BASF’s figures for 2003 clearly show that the tremendous hard work by the company’s employees worldwide has been successful: BASF have strengthened their position as one of the world’s leading chemical companies. In a difficult market environment, sales increased by 3.6% to €33.4 billion. Excluding currency effects, the growth would have been substantially higher and sales would have reached €35.7 billion. The forecast made last November for income from operations (EBIT) before special items was exceeded: it increased in 2003 by about 4% to almost €3 billion. Cash provided by operating activities reached a record level of €4.9 billion. EBIT in 2003 contained special charges of €335 million. These special charges were primarily related to restructuring measures taken to increase efficiency as part of the Ludwigshafen Site Project.

Sales and earnings increased substantially in the agricultural products & nutrition and oil & gas segments. In the chemicals, plastics and performance products segments, earnings were below the 2002 level, but sales in some divisions climbed.

‘Even in very challenging times, BASF is and will remain a company that investors can count on for financial strength, a strong potential for innovation and reliability’, said Dr Jürgen Hambrecht, chairman of the board of executive directors at the company’s annual press conference in March. According to Hambrecht, the medium-term prospects for the global economy are now more favourable. ‘Throughout the world, the economy seems to have bottomed out. Upward movement is increasing; the growth markets in Asia and the United States are fuelling the global recovery process.’

The company’s forecast for 2004 is based on the following scenario:

* An improved investment climate and a gradually improving consumer climate;

* An average oil price of $28/barrel in 2004, and

* A US dollar that continues to be volatile and weak.