SWATCHES

LOOKING UP AT BASF: Fiber sales and profits at BASF Corp. have seen "significant improvement in the first two months of this year, compared to last year," according to Werner Burgert, BASF executive vice president and president of its Fiber Products Division.
Burgert was one of the officials addressing a press briefing staged last week by the company, the U.S. arm of the German-based BASF AG. The day before, the diversified firm released its financial results for 1994. BASF's fiber worldwide operations are directed from the U.S., primarily from the company's Mount Olive, N.J., offices. These operations include the company's new nylon joint venture in China, which is now devoted to BCF carpet fiber. Burgert said the Shanghai plant was the first nylon carpet fiber producer in China.
While carpet fiber is the largest part of BASF's nylon business in the U.S., Burgert said the textile nylon operations are undergoing major shifts to higher value products, including swimwear and activewear, in a broader range of colors. In the U.S., BASF's textile nylon sales are "a weak second to DuPont, but by shifting to specialty markets, rather than commodity sales, we expect to improve this position," he said.
"We are experimenting with new yarns. We are trying to find applications in the textile nylon market for our multicolored and hollow-core yarns now being used in carpet. This should come about in the next several months."
J. Dieter Stein, chairman and chief executive officer of BASF Corp., said the firm's fiber sales in the North American Free Trade Agreement area were "growing at a rate of about 1 percent, as it is in Europe. The real growth will be in the Far East. That is why we are in China."
Stein, commenting on raw materials, said he expected petrochemical prices would slow in growth in the near future, but he feels that the cost of propylene will remain high for a few years--more so than ethylene.
As for BASF Corp.'s overall performance this year, Stein said the firm is "back on the track again" and looking for a 20 percent increase over 1994 profits, which were offset by hefty extraordinary charges. In 1994, BASF's U.S. operations showed an loss of $226.8 million (315 million marks) after charges of $907.2 million (1.26 billion marks), including charges related to site closings and consolidations.

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