After being dethroned last year, German chemical giant BASF is once again number one in C&EN's annual Global Top 50 list of chemical companies for 2019. Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, reports that a shakeup in the international chemical markets was brewing even before the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the end of the 2019 fiscal year, the group of 50 chemical companies earned a collective $855.6 billion in revenue, a 5% decrease from the previous year. In addition, overall earnings dropped by over 28% compared to 2018. This was a sign that the global economy was slowing even before the novel coronavirus emerged, writes Senior Editor Alex Tullo. Executives pinned this decline on trade tensions between the U.S. and China, along with poor performance in the automotive industry and other key markets.
With $66.4 billion in chemical sales in 2019, BASF's reemergence as the top firm was attributed to the breakup of DowDuPont into three separate companies. Followed closely at number two is China-based Sinopec with $61.6 billion in sales, and the now-separate Dow and DuPont come in at numbers three and 14 on the list, respectively. With the global pandemic continuing to keep consumers at home, the outlook for 2020 is grim, experts note. They predict that U.S. chemical revenue will decline by 15%, and the worldwide gross domestic product will contract by 4.6%. In Europe, the picture is slightly rosier, with chemical production up in Germany by 3.2%, but with a decline in sales expected late in the year. Despite current volatility, the 2019 list is not much different than lists from recent years, but the coming year might shake things up even further.
The paper, "C&EN's Global Top 50 for 2020," is freely available here.
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