Urethane Highlights from BASF Investors Call
BASF SE’s (BASFY) CEO Martin Brudermüller on Q4 2021 Results – Earnings Call Transcript
BASF SE’s (OTCQX:BASFY) Q4 2021 Earnings Conference Call February 25, 2022 5:30 AM ET
Stefanie Wettberg – Investor Relations
Martin Brudermüller – Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors
Hans Engel – Chief Financial Officer
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is hard to go back to business as usual the day after Russia attacked Ukraine. Yesterday marks the end of peace in Europe. It is a bitter day for all of us. A short time ago, no one would have thought it possible. We are dismayed by the attack and are very concerned about further developments. And we are all thinking at this moment of the people in Ukraine who have to fear for their lives and their future. Nevertheless, Hans Engel and I would like to welcome you to our Analyst Conference Call for the full year 2021.
2021 was a strong year for BASF. [Technical Difficulty] driven by the Chemicals and Materials segments. The Surface Technologies and Industrial Solutions segments also contributed considerably to the strong recovery. Looking at the underlying sales development, we increased sales prices by 25% and volumes by 11%. All segments achieved price and volume growth in 2021. Cash flows from operating activities improved by 34% and amounted to 7.2 billion Euros, as compared to 5.4 billion Euros in 2020. Free cash flow increased by 1.4 billion Euros to 3.7 billion Euros in 2021.
BASF’s automotive-related businesses continued to be negatively impacted by the semiconductor shortage. According to current data, global automotive production reached around 76 million units in 2021, and thus increased only slightly compared with the very low level of the previous year. For 2022, IHS Markit expects 84 million units. We assume that the semiconductor shortage will persist, at least in the first half of 2022. We therefore expect just 82 million units to be produced and are less optimistic than IHS for the full year. Throughout 2021, and particularly in the fourth quarter, higher raw materials prices and increased energy and logistics costs burdened the earnings development in all segments. Consequently, we will focus on further substantial price increases in the coming months to pass on the significantly higher costs and improve our margins in the downstream businesses. The established pricing procedures in these businesses lead to a delay in passing on costs.
Let’s now turn to the macroeconomic environment. According to the currently available data, global growth in the Chemical industry was 6.1% in 2021. The strongest growth in Chemical production was achieved in China, the world’s largest Chemical market, with a full-year expansion of 7.7%. Here, however, growth slowed at a high level during the course of the year. Electricity cuts had a negative effect on production, particularly in the third and fourth quarters. Growth in Asia excluding China reached 6.2% in 2021. Chemical production growth in the European Union was extraordinarily high at 6%. A contributing factor was the low basis in the previous year. In addition, the European Chemical industry benefited from the fact that availability of global production capacities for basic Chemicals was limited. In the United States, significant petrochemical capacities were temporarily unavailable. After the freeze in the first quarter, production on the US Gulf Coast was also negatively impacted in the summer by hurricanes Ida and Nicholas. In total, Chemical production in North America grew by only 1.7% in 2021.
On this slide you can see BASF’s volume growth by region compared with the prior year. With an increase in volumes of 10.6% in 2021, BASF Group’s growth was 4.5 percentage points above global Chemical production. Let’s now look at the volume development in the regions. With 14.4%, our volume growth was most pronounced in Asia excluding Greater China. In North America, sales volumes grew by 10.6% and in Europe by 10.1%. In Greater China, we increased volumes by 8.7% compared with an already very strong prior year. Volume development in the fourth quarter of 2021 was burdened in particular by lower demand for mobile emissions catalysts. This was a result of overall lower automotive production due to the semiconductor shortage. The electricity cuts for energy-intensive industries had only a minor impact on BASF’s operations in China.
We now look at our sales and earnings development by segment in 2021. Hans will comment later on the specific development in Q4. At BASF Group level, sales increased by 33% to 78.6 billion Euros due to considerably higher prices and volumes in all segments. Currency effects had a slightly negative effect and were mainly related to the US dollar. BASF Group’s EBIT before special items reached 7.8 billion Euros, an increase of 118% compared with 2020. All segments, with the exception of Nutrition & Care and Agricultural Solutions, increased EBIT before special items in 2021. The rise in earnings was driven in particular by the Chemicals and the Materials segments. For detailed explanations of the 2021 earnings development by segment, please refer to the BASF Report 2021 published this morning.
Let’s now look at our financial and non-financial targets. We achieved all our financial targets in 2021, and we have taken important steps to deliver on our mid-term CO2 emission target. As mentioned before, our sales volumes growth was well above global Chemical production. EBITDA before special items increased from 7.4 billion Euros to 11.3 billion Euros and thus by 53%. Our 2021 ROCE of 13.5% was considerably above the cost of capital rate of 9%.
For 2021, we will propose a dividend of 3.40 Euros per share to the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, thus delivering on our progressive dividend policy. We want to reduce our absolute CO2 emissions by 25% by 2030 compared with the baseline 2018. In 2021, our CO2 emissions amounted to 20.2 million metric tons, a decrease from the 20.8 million metric tons emitted in 2020. This is remarkable given the strong growth in volumes. We also set a target of 22 billion Euros in sales with Accelerator products by 2025. These are products that make a substantial sustainability contribution in the value chain. In 2021, [Technical Difficulty] in 2020. We thus achieved our Accelerator sales target much earlier than planned. We will therefore adjust this portfolio steering target in the course of 2022.
Ladies and gentlemen, creating value for our shareholders is a top priority for us and this is why we aim to increase the dividend per share every year based on a strong free cash flow. At this year’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, the Board of Executive Directors and the Supervisory Board will propose to pay a dividend of 3.40 Euros per share, an increase of [Technical Difficulty]. In total, we would pay out 3.1 billion Euros based on the number of shares at the end of the year. This amount is more than covered by our free cash flow in 2021. With our dividend proposal, the BASF share offers an attractive dividend yield of 5.5% based on the share price at the end of 2021.
Since we have already received several inquiries, I would like to provide a short update about this year’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting. The Board of Executive Directors and the Supervisory Board have decided to hold a virtual Annual Shareholders’ Meeting on April 29. The pandemic and the expected number of participants will not yet permit a physical meeting in 2022. The invitation with detailed information will be published in mid-March.
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