ASF, the world's largest chemical company by sales, said Thursday earnings before interest, tax and special items rose 19% to $2.36 billion, beating the forecasts in a Reuters poll.
Earnings at its plastics business rose 23%, offsetting a 26% fall in chemicals earnings, partly due to maintenance shutdowns and production losses, as well as high input costs, and a similar slump in agricultural products and nutrition.
First-quarter sales rose 24%, helped by its oil and gas unit, which benefited from high crude prices. For the company as a whole, product prices rose 12% and volumes 7%.
BASF, whose products range from plastics to pesticides, has attempted to reduce the cyclicality of its portfolio by buying specialty chemical assets.
BASF shares trade at 11.6 times 2006 earnings, according to Reuters Estimates, cheaper than 15.7 times for U.S. rival DuPont , reflecting a traditional premium enjoyed by U.S. chemical company shares.
The shares are also cheaper than shares in domestic peer Bayer, which change hands at a multiple of 13.6 times, thanks mainly to Bayer's drugs unit.
BASF raised its forecast for the oil price average for the full year to $60 from $55 a barrel.