Short-Term Opportunities and Risks

Development of demand

The development of our sales markets is one of the strongest sources of opportunities and risks. More details on our assumptions regarding short-term growth rates for the global economy, regions and key customer industries, such as the chemicals, automotive and construction sectors, can be found under Economic Environment in 2020.

We also consider risks from deviations in assumptions. A significant macroeconomic risk arises from the possibility that measures to contain the coronavirus are kept in place for a longer period of time or expanded, and that Chinese and global economic growth continues to slow as a result. A further escalation of the trade conflicts between the United States and its trade partners pose additional macroeconomic risks. Both can have a considerable impact on demand for intermediate goods for industrial production and demand for investment goods. This would have an effect on emerging markets that export raw materials as well as on advanced economies that specialize in technological goods. Risks to the global economy would also be posed by the possible escalation of geopolitical conflicts.

Weather-related influences can result in positive or negative effects on our business, particularly in the Agricultural Solutions segment.

Margin volatility

Margin risks for the BASF Group primarily result from a further decline in margins in the Chemicals and Materials segments. New capacities or raw materials shortages could also increase margin pressure on a number of products and value chains. This would have a negative effect on our EBIT.

Since the merger of the oil and gas businesses of Wintershall and DEA, the contribution attributable to BASF is included in income from operations (EBIT) through income from companies accounted for using the equity method. This has a compensating effect on margin pressure in the chemicals business if oil and gas prices rise. The year’s average oil price for Brent crude was $64 per barrel in 2019, compared with $71 per barrel in the previous year. For 2020, we anticipate an average oil price of $60 per barrel. We therefore expect price levels for the raw materials and petrochemical basic products that are important to our business to remain constant.


We continuously enhance our products and solutions in order to maintain competitive ability. We monitor the market and the competition, and try to take targeted advantage of opportunities and counter emerging risks with suitable measures. Aside from innovation, key components of our competitiveness are our ongoing cost management and continuous process optimization.

Regulation and political risks

Risks for us can arise from intensified geopolitical tensions, new trade sanctions, stricter emissions limits for plants or energy, and climate laws. In addition, risks to the BASF Group can be posed by further regulations in key customer industries or on the use or registration of agricultural and other chemicals.

Brexit has given rise to economic and political uncertainties. At this point in time, it is not yet clear what the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom will look like after the transition phase and what specific consequences this will have for our sites, our supply chains and the regulatory environment. A cross-divisional Brexit team has been established to prepare the BASF organization for various scenarios and enable it to promptly react to political decisions. Together with our operating units, suppliers, customers and logistics partners, we have identified problems and steps to avoid supply chain disruptions, especially in the event of a hard Brexit. Alternative logistics concepts include, for example, leasing additional warehouse space, establishing consignment warehouses or technical expansions in our ERP systems to be able to react to additional customs requirements on the systems side as well.

Political measures could also give rise to opportunities. For example, we view measures around the world to increase energy efficiency as an opportunity for increased demand for our products, such as our insulation foams for buildings, battery materials for electromobility, or our solutions for wind turbines. Our broad product portfolio enables us to offer alternatives if chemicals have to be substituted as a result of restrictions in connection with the REACH chemicals regulation or new standards in our customers’ industries.

Purchasing and supply chain

We minimize procurement risks through our broad portfolio, global purchasing activities and the purchase of raw materials on spot markets. If possible, we avoid procuring raw materials from a single supplier. When this cannot be avoided, we try to foster competition or we knowingly enter into this relationship and assess the consequences of potential nondelivery. We continuously monitor the credit risk of important business partners.

Around the world, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions (such as high/low water levels on rivers or hurricanes) are subject to change as a result of climate change. We address the risk of supply interruptions on the procurement and sales side caused by extreme weather conditions by switching to unaffected logistics carriers and the possibility of falling back on unaffected sites within our global Verbund. We can no longer rule out the effects of extreme low-water situations caused by climate change at our Verbund site in Ludwigshafen, Germany. In 2019, we therefore implemented a package of measures including the development of an early warning system for low water levels, making loading stations more flexible and time chartering ships with high load capacities in the case of low water. These measures can be deployed immediately and make extremely long periods of low water on the Rhine River, like the one in 2018, more manageable.

Production and investments

We try to prevent unscheduled plant shutdowns by adhering to high technical standards and by continuously improving our plants. We reduce the effects of an unscheduled shutdown on the supply of intermediate and end products through diversification within our global production Verbund.

In the event of a production outage – caused by an accident, for example – our global, regional or local emergency response plans and crisis management structures are engaged, depending on the impact scope. Every region has crisis management teams on a local and regional level. They not only coordinate the necessary emergency response measures, they also initiate the immediate measures for damage control and resumption of normal operations as quickly as possible.

Crisis management also includes dealing with extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes (for example, at the sites on the Gulf of Mexico in Freeport, Texas, and Geismar, Louisiana) or significantly elevated water temperatures in rivers due to extended heat waves, which limit the available cooling capacity (for example, at the Ludwigshafen site in Germany). Appropriate precautions are taken at the sites in the case of a potential change in risk in connection with climate change. For example, the Verbund site in Ludwigshafen, Germany, implemented a package of measures in 2019 to increase cooling capacity, including expanding and optimizing the central recooling plants and optimizing cooling water flows. These are capable of avoiding production outages due to extreme heatwaves like the one in 2018.

Short-term risks from investments can result from, for example, technical malfunctions or schedule and budget breaches. We counter these risks with highly experienced project management and controlling.

Acquisitions, divestitures and cooperations

We constantly monitor the market in order to identify possible acquisition targets and develop our portfolio appropriately. In addition, we work together in collaborations with customers and partners to jointly develop new, competitive products and applications.

Opportunities and risks arise in connection with acquisitions and divestitures from the conclusion of a transaction, or it being completed earlier or later than expected. They relate to the regular earnings contributions gained or lost as well as the realization of gains or losses from divestitures if these deviate from our planning assumptions.


Due to BASF’s worldwide compensation principles, the development of personnel expenses is partly dependent on the amount of variable compensation, which is linked to the company’s success, among other factors. The correlation between variable compensation and the success of the company has the effect of minimizing risk. Another factor is the development of interest rates for discounting pension obligations. Furthermore, changes to the legal environment of a particular country can have an impact on the development of personnel expenses for the BASF Group. For countries in which BASF is active, relevant developments are therefore constantly monitored in order to recognize risks at an early stage and enable BASF to carry out suitable measures.

Information technology risks

BASF relies on a large number of IT systems. Their nonavailability, violation of confidentiality or the manipulation of data in critical IT systems and applications can all have a direct impact on production and logistics processes. The threat environment has changed in recent years, as attackers have become better organized, use more sophisticated technology, and have far more resources available. If data are lost or manipulated, this can, for example, negatively affect plant availability, delivery quality or the accuracy of our financial reporting. Unauthorized access to sensitive data, such as personnel records or customer data, competition-related information or research results, can result in legal consequences or jeopardize our competitive position. This would also be accompanied by the associated loss of reputation.

To minimize such risks, BASF uses globally uniform processes and systems to ensure IT availability and IT security, such as stable and redundantly designed IT systems, backup processes, virus and access protection, encryption systems as well as integrated, Group-wide standardized IT infrastructure and applications. The systems used for information security are constantly tested, continuously updated, and expanded if necessary. In addition, our employees receive regular training on information and data protection. IT-related risk management is conducted using Group-wide regulations for organization and application, as well as an internal control system based on these regulations.

BASF also established the Cyber Defense Center in 2015, is a member of Cyber Security Sharing and Analytics e.V. (CSSA), and a founding member of the German Cybersecurity Organization (DCSO) together with Allianz SE, Bayer AG and Volkswagen AG. BASF has also established an information security management system and is certified according to ISO/IEC 27001:2013.

Legal disputes and proceedings

We constantly monitor current and potential legal disputes and proceedings, and regularly report on these to the Board of Executive Directors and Supervisory Board. In order to assess the risks from current legal disputes and proceedings and any potential need to recognize provisions, we prepare our own analyses and assessments of the circumstances and claims considered. In addition, in individual cases, we consider the results of comparable proceedings and, if needed, independent legal opinions. Risk assessment is particularly based on estimates as to the probability of occurrence and the range of possible claims. These estimates are the result of close cooperation between the relevant operating and functional units together with the Legal and Finance units. If sufficient probability of occurrence is identified, a provision is recognized accordingly for each proceeding. Should a provision be unnecessary, general risk management continues to assess whether these litigations nevertheless represent a risk for the EBIT of the BASF Group.

We use our internal control system to limit risks from potential infringements of rights or laws. For example, we try to avoid patent and licensing disputes whenever possible through extensive clearance research. As part of our Group-wide Compliance Program, our employees receive regular training.