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Picture: 123RF/DMITRIY SHIRONOSOV
Picture: 123RF/DMITRIY SHIRONOSOV

Frankfurt — BASF appointed company veteran Markus Kamieth on Wednesday to become CEO next year, amid an organisational overhaul of the chemicals giant which is grappling with falling earnings and sluggish economic growth in its European home market.

In a statement, the German company said Kamieth would replace CEO Martin Brudermueller in April, with the latter having previously been appointed to become nonexecutive chair of carmaker Mercedes-Benz.

Chief technology officer Melanie Maas-Brunner would not renew her contract beyond January 31, BASF added.

The board had considered both Kamieth and Maas-Brunner for the top job, sources familiar with the matter said, though media reports had described Kamieth as front-runner.

“A few months ago, I made the decision not to extend my board contract and to pursue a new professional direction,” Maas-Brunner said on the website LinkedIn.

The choice of CEO is in keeping with a BASF history of recruiting top executives from its own ranks.

The transition comes after BASF renewed its commitment to build a €10bn chemical complex in southern China to tap into faster growth there and cut what it has called disproportionate reliance on subdued European home markets.

Sources said both Kamieth and Maas-Brunner have supported BASF’s investment focus on China, which runs counter to German government efforts to persuade companies to reduce their dependence on the country.

Arne Rautenberg, portfolio manager at mutual funds firm Union Investment, said the CEO pick had been overdue and Kamieth would have to tackle considerable challenges.

In October, BASF had mapped out further cost cuts in Europe, scaled-back investments and earnings projections, citing an “extremely uncertain” global economic outlook.

In addition, BASF is preparing to convert its agriculture, battery materials and coatings businesses into autonomous units.

Among BASF’s major growth initiatives, the China investment is rivalled only by a push to build a global manufacturing network of battery materials to cater to the fast-growing electric vehicles industry.

“BASF must transform itself to achieve regional cost leadership in basic chemicals and global leadership in speciality chemicals,” said Union’s Rautenberg.

Reuters

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