Sales in the company's materials business fell 13.6% between 2018 and 2019 to EUR 11.5 bn. EBIT across in the division fell 58.2%, to EUR 1003m in 2019.
The lower numbers were caused by a sharp drop in diisocyanate prices between 2018 and 2019, as well as weaker overall demand. The situation was not helped by lower margins in the cracker business, and scheduled cracker turnarounds.
CEO Martin Brudermuller said: '2019 was a challenging year with strong global economic headwinds.'
He added that the company used the past year to implement its corporate strategy. 'We have started off the new year with a reshaped organisation, reduced complexity, streamlined administration and simplified processes,' he said.
The company expects that the effects of the coronavirus will be most marked in the first half of the year. However, Brudermuller warned that they do not expect the its effects to be fully offset during the course of the year.
'We expect slight growth in most of our customer industries,' he said. 'For the automotive industry, however, we anticipate a continued decline in production.'
For BASF, this translates to global economic growth of about 2% this year. Chemicals demand growth is likely to be around 1.2% – the lowest level since the financial crash of 2008.