BASF Plans Water Unit Sale and Job Cuts to Improve Profitability

BASF SE, the world’s biggest chemicals maker, will sell a France-based industrial water management unit and cut some 215 jobs to boost profitability.

A larger water solutions division will be combined with the oilfield and mining solutions businesses, the Ludwigshafen, Germany-based company said in an e-mailed statement.

“The planned comprehensive measures are needed to achieve cost competitiveness,” Hans Reiners, the head of BASF’s performance chemicals operations, said in the statement. The sale would be to a ’’strategic’’ partner. “These efforts will be backed by considerable investments in new technologies in Europe as well as in North America and in R&D.”

BASF cut costs by 100 million euros ($128 million) last year and intends to generate further savings in excess of that sum in 2013, Chief Executive Officer Kurt Bock said Feb. 26. He’s fighting to maintain margins which slipped to 11.2 percent last year from 11.5 percent amid deteriorating demand for cosmetic ingredients and paper chemicals. BASF has already cut 400 jobs at construction chemicals and reduced capacity at paper ingredients in Europe.

Most of the job reductions announced today will come at the company’s Bradford and Grimsby sites in England, the company said. The 61 employee-strong water management business which is up for sale is based in Lyon, France.