* Takes 600 mln euro impairment charge
* Expects 18 pct drop in 2015 EBIT
* Shares down 2.8 percent (Adds share price indication, Moody’s comment, further details)
BERLIN, Jan 27 (Reuters) - BASF announced a 600-million-euro ($653 million) charge for the fourth quarter citing low oil prices and warned of lower-than-expected 2015 earnings, sending its shares lower on Wednesday.
Low oil prices, normally a boon to chemical companies, hurt BASF’s oil and gas business Wintershall, which accounted for 20 percent of its 2014 sales.
A global oil glut has pushed prices to 12-year lows and forced energy companies to rein in spending.
The world’s largest chemicals company by sales, BASF joins others such as Shell and Austria’s OMV in announcing a writedown.
Benchmark Brent crude oil futures have fallen to around $30 per barrel from $115 in June 2014 amid a glut in supply.
BASF, whose products also include coatings, foam chemicals, catalytic converters and mining chemicals, forecast an 18 percent drop in 2015 earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) would come to 6.2 billion euros ($6.7 billion).
Last October it had warned of a slight decrease and said at the time that weak demand and plunging currencies in markets such as China and Brazil were hurting business.
BASF shares were down 2.8 percent to 60.36 euros at 0827 GMT, the biggest decliners on Germany’s blue-chip index , which was down 0.3 percent.
NordLB cut its price target on BASF to 64 euros from 78 euros but kept its “hold” rating citing BASF’s above-average dividend yield.
BASF said it expected oil and gas prices to remain at low levels in 2016 and it had cut its assumptions for subsequent years, forcing it to take the impairment in the fourth quarter of 2015 in its oil and gas division.
Credit rating agency Moody’s last week slashed its forecast for 2016 average Brent prices to $33 per barrel from $43 and placed more than 100 energy-related companies on review for downgrade.
BASF said its 2015 sales fell by 5 percent to 70.4 billion euros and EBIT before special items was down 8 percent at 6.7 billion euros, in line with its guidance.
It is due to report full results on Feb. 26.
$1 = 0.9209 euros Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Jason Neely
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