Auto demand lifts BASF quarterly profit


* Q3 adj EBIT up 15 pct at 1.69 bln eur vs 1.63 poll avg

* CEO: Q3 was robust, confirms goal for FY profit growth

* Strong automotive demand offsets currency drag

* Shares gain 1 pct, vs sector gauge's 0.4 pct increase

By Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT, Oct 25 (Reuters) - BASF squeezed outfaster than expected quarterly profit growth on Friday aftercarmakers' demand for catalytic converters and high-techplastics helped offset weak overseas currencies for the world'sbiggest chemicals company.

BASF, a weather vane for the business cycle as it servesauto, construction, electronics and consumer goods industries,sought to dampen any hopes of a swift global economic recoveryand pointed to a weak Japanese yen and Brazilian real erodingthe value of overseas revenues.

"The automotive industry is our most important industry.There, we have seen very good growth in Asia, which is animportant focus for us. We've seen good growth in coatings,catalysts and plastics," Chief Executive Kurt Bock told ReutersInsider TV, adding that European markets were "okay" onlybecause of German carmakers.

BASF said that despite economic uncertainty and negativecurrency effects it was still aiming to exceed 2012 levels ofsales and adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT).

Third-quarter group earnings before interest and tax (EBIT),adjusted for one-off items, rose 15 percent to 1.69 billioneuros ($2.35 billion), more than the 1.63 billion euro averageestimate in a Reuters poll of analysts.

The shares advanced 1.2 percent by 1055 GMT on the positiveearnings surprise, outperforming the STOXX Europe 600 Chemicals index's 0.5 percent gain.

Dutch sector peer Akzo Nobel also last weeksurprised by beating market expectations.

Bock said the company was dealing with foreign exchangemarket swings by concentrating production where it sells. Thecompany had achieved that in the United States, he added, wherethe firm has 95 percent local production.

On earnings, its unit which makes specialty chemicals andplastics for industrial use posted a particularly strong gain,helped by demand for automotive sound insulation and seats frompolyurethane foams.

New car markets in Europe, BASF's most important region,grew 5.4 percent in September, only the third monthly gain inthe past two years.

The economic picture remained uncertain, it added.

"We do not anticipate an upturn in the global economy forthe fourth quarter of 2013. The environment is likely to remainchallenging," it said.

Optimism about the euro zone's economy hit a 2-year high inSeptember, a survey showed, but the private sector in theregion's largest economy, Germany, grew only at the slowest pacein three months in October.

While BASF relies on Asia for growth, Europe is its mostimportant market, accounting for more than half of group sales.

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