* Q4 adj EBIT 1.45 bln eur, up 18 pct, vs 1.38 bln poll avg
* Sees slight increase in 2014 adj EBIT
* Follows forecast-beating profit at U.S. rivals Dow, DuPont
* Shares down 1.6 pct, within chemicals index down 0.4
By Ludwig Burger
LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany, Feb 25 BASF,
the world's largest chemicals company by sales, predicted a
small rise in operating profit this year, with an uncertain
economic outlook tempering its optimism over growing demand from
automakers and consumer goods companies.
The German firm did not specify on Tuesday what it meant by
a slight increase in adjusted earnings before interest and tax
(EBIT). But analysts had on average forecast a gain of almost 10
percent, and BASF shares fell more than 1.5 percent.
"It seems that the company does not want to become too
positive, too early," said Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Markus
Mayer, who also pointed to lower-than-expected earnings at some
of BASF's speciality chemicals businesses.
The German group's fourth-quarter EBIT, adjusted for one-off
items, rose 18 percent to 1.45 billion euros ($1.99 billion),
beating the 1.38 billion euro average estimate in a Reuters poll
of analysts, helped by strong margins at its oil and gas as well
as its basic petrochemicals divisions.
"In the Asian emerging markets and in Eastern Europe, we
forecast a significant increase in automotive production," the
maker of catalytic converters, insulation foam and coatings
Demand from consumer goods makers in Japan and the United
States and from the electronics industry would also shore up
earnings in a generally challenging economic backdrop, it added.
BASF's largest U.S. rivals, Dow Chemical Co and
DuPont, last month sought to boost shareholder value with
share buyback programmes after posting forecast-beating
But BASF, which spent about 10 billion euros on its own
stock between 1999 and 2008, reiterated it would focus on
expanding and upgrading its network of plants.
At 1030 GMT, its shares were down 1.6 percent at 81.92
euros, worse than the 0.4 percent decline of the STOXX Europe
600 Chemicals index.