UPDATE 2-BASF bolstered by Libyan oil and pesticides

Thu Oct 25, 2012 6:25am EDT

* Q3 adj EBIT 2.1 bln eur vs Rtrs poll avg 2.0 bln

* Gets boost from resumed Libya oil output

* Sees uncertainty for chemicals, plastics in Europe

* Sees slowdown in Asia

* Shares up 2.4 pct, outperform sector

By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Libyan oil and demand for pesticides will help Germany's BASF meet its target of higher operating profit this year, offsetting a downturn in its main industrial chemicals and plastics business.

BASF's oil and gas unit has been ramping up production in Libya this year, having been the second-largest foreign oil company in the North African country after Italy's ENI before last year's armed conflict.

The pesticides business, which in the third quarter tends to be driven by demand from Latin American farmers, is benefiting from high crop and grain prices, which surged early in the third quarter.

"The outlook is clouded by continued uncertainty, especially in the euro zone, and by slower growth in Asia," the world's largest chemical maker by sales said.

"Nevertheless, we still aim to exceed the 2011 record levels in sales and income from operations before special items."

Third-quarter earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), adjusted for one-off items, rose by 5 percent to almost 2.1 billion euros ($2.7 billion), against a 2.0 billion average estimate in a Reuters poll of analysts.

BASF remains a tale of two industries, with quarterly operating profit at its Wintershall fossil fuel unit more than tripling on resumed oil output in Libya, its main sourcing country, while the remainder of the company saw operating earnings decline almost 40 percent, worse than expected.

POSITIVE VIEW

But some investors saw the results positively, given recent statements from its closest peers had indicated a sharp downturn in the sector, which is particularly vulnerable due to its massive overheads and exposure to cyclical industries such as electronics, carmakers and builders.

"Earnings in the chemicals activities were somewhat weaker than we had expected, but there seems to be no broad-based deterioration at this stage," said Annett Weber, an analyst with BHF-Bank.

In a conference call, Chief Executive Kurt Bock said signals from Chinese chemicals markets had for a while been pointing to slower growth than official statistics, which showed third quarter economic growth was 7.4 percent.

BASF derives about 20 percent of its revenue from Asia, about half of that from China.

The shares gained 2.4 percent at 0836 GMT, outperforming a 1.4 percent rise in the STOXX Europe 600 Chemicals index.

BASF, whose products range from catalytic converters and car coatings to insulation foams, refrained from the type of job cutting programmes announced by its two largest U.S. competitors.

DuPont on Tuesday slashed its earnings forecast, and announced 1,500 job cuts while Dow Chemical this month said it plans to cut 5 percent of its workforce as it reported lower-than-expected sales.

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