In the major political turn of 1989/90 and in the emerging markets of eastern Germany and eastern Europe, BASF quickly recognizes the opportunities for growth. It acquires the Schwarzheide site in one of the new states of the Federal Republic of Germany. It also increasingly expands its global presence by investing in the growing markets in southern and eastern Asia, and by building Verbund sites in Kuantan in Malaysia and in Nanjing in China.
In his speech marking BASF’s 125th anniversary in 1990, Hans Albers (1925-1999, Chairman of the BASF Board of Executive Directors from 1983 to 1990) says the following: “Chemistry for the Future is only possible if we have clear goals, and if we affirm and are willing to help shape the changes underway around us. [...] By moving into promising markets, BASF is adjusting to the challenges of growth and changing demand. [...] By means of responsible action, we have a duty to prove that chemistry and nature are not incompatible but instead form a whole. This is especially true for environmental protection, an area in which we are developing innovative solutions on our own initiative and on the basis of our worldwide expertise.”
In 1990, BASF is the first foreign company to be invited by the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to participate in a joint research venture.
BASF expands its portfolio by acquiring the magnetic tape activities of the Agfa-Gevaert Group, and restructures its magnetic product business. In 1991, it consolidates the production and sales of its tapes, cassettes, and diskettes into a new subsidiary, BASF Magnetics GmbH.
BASF acquires the company known as Synthesewerk Schwarzheide AG in the Niederlausitz region of eastern Germany. This new subsidiary, renamed BASF Schwarzheide GmbH, manufactures polyurethane basic materials and specialties. Over the following 10 years, around 2 billion marks are invested in redeveloping, modernizing, and expanding the site. As part of a campaign to promote Schwarzheide as a business location launched in 1988, other companies set up at the site and work closely together with BASF Schwarzheide GmbH.
Wintershall AG and the Soviet company Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer, agree to join forces to market natural gas from the USSR. This involves planning, building, and operating new natural gas pipelines and distribution networks as well as jointly selling natural gas in western Europe. As part of the agreement, Wintershall invests more than 4 billion marks in constructing the MIDAL (Mitte-Deutschland- Anbindungsleitung) and STEGAL (Sachsen-Thüringen-Erdgasleitung) long-distance pipelines and the natural gas storage facility in Rehden, Germany.
BASF inaugurates a new ecology laboratory in Ludwigshafen in 1991. Its responsibilities include ecobiological and environmental analyses of individual substances, products, and wastewater.
The end of the coal era: The Auguste Victoria mine in Marl, which has supplied BASF with coal since 1907, is sold to Ruhrkohle AG.
BASF’s first plant in China, which BASF designs in-house and erects together with a Chinese partner, is inaugurated in Nanjing in 1992. It produces unsaturated polyester resins (UP resins) primarily for use in building boats and containers. In 1996, BASF sells its shares of Jinling BASF Resins Co. Ltd.
A plant for producing tetrahydrofuran (THF) and polytetrahydrofuran (PolyTHF) is built in Yokkaichi in Japan. These products serve as starting materials for plastics and elastic spandex fibers, which are used to make items such as high-quality stockings and leisure wear.
In the course of privatizing the East German potash industry after unification, Kali und Salz AG (K+S), a BASF subsidiary, merges with Mitteldeutsche Kali AG (MdK) to form Kali und Salz GmbH in 1993. K+S holds 51 percent of the share capital, with the remaining 49 percent held by the Treuhand government privatization holding. The merger enables streamlining and restructuring to take place across what is now a single German potash industry. In the course of further developing its portfolio, BASF divests its majority holding by the late 1990s, disposing its last shares (around 10 percent) in 2011.
Acting on a resolution by its Board of Executive Directors, the company institutes the “BASF Innovation Award.” This prize is designed to highlight the importance of innovation and to provide special recognition to innovative employees. In 1993, the award is given for the development of Opus, a grain fungicide, and for the development of the Paliocrom® effect pigments.
BASF starts up its new steam cracker at the Antwerp site in 1994. Built at a cost of 1.3 billion marks, the cracker is the biggest investment thus far in the company’s history. It completes the product Verbund and ensures a reliable supply of petrochemical feedstocks.
In 1995, BASF inaugurates its new site in Altamira, Mexico. Strategically positioned in the NAFTA trade zone, the site initially produces dispersions, process chemicals, Styropor®, and dyes.
Jürgen Strube (born in 1939, Chairman of the BASF Board of Executive Directors from 1990 to 2003) states at the Annual Meeting in 1996: “Our growth is strongest in Asia quite simply because the economic music being played there is especially loud and stirring. We intend to play too and want to take our place among the first ranks. Our customers think exactly the same and are expanding their presence in China, Korea, and India. We view this not only as an opportunity to anchor BASF in a stable front-row position by moving swiftly into the Asian market, but also as a commitment to support our customers as they too build up their businesses in Asia.”
BASF plans to build one of the world’s largest production facilities for acrylic monomers in Kuantan, Malaysia, in collaboration with the state-owned company PETRONAS. This new plant also prepares the ground for a BASF Verbund site in Kuantan.
BASF strengthens its crop protection activities with another acquisition, buying part of Sandoz AG’s worldwide corn herbicide business. This enables BASF to increase its sales of crop protection agents, especially in North America.
A quantum leap in the struggle against mildew: Brio, a mildew fungicide, is introduced to the market after around 13 years of intensive research and development. It represents a breakthrough to an entirely new class of fungicidal active ingredients – the strobilurins.
In 1997, BASF and Hoechst found Targor, a joint venture that combines the two companies’ polypropylene operations. Headquartered in Mainz, the company has production sites in Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, and Spain.
A combined heat and power (CHP) plant starts operations at BASF’s Ludwigshafen site. It produces steam and electricity at the same time whereby the utilization rate can reach up to 90%. With gas and steam turbines, the BASF Group meets 70% of its electricity demand in 2013.
The Korea-based KOHAP Group acquires BASF’s worldwide magnetic tape activities.
The New Jersey-based BASF Corporation and Dallas-based FINA Inc. start constructing the world’s largest naphtha steamcracker in Port Arthur, Texas in 1998. Operated by BASF, the steamcracker is located at FINA’s refinery site. After starting up in December 2001, the facility pipes propylene and ethylene as well as other feedstocks to BASF’s Verbund sites in Freeport, Texas and Geismar, Louisiana.
The biodegradable plastic Ecoflex is introduced in 1998, eight years later its development Ecovio, which consists of up to 75% of renewable raw materials, follows. With Ecoflex and Ecovio, BASF is one of the world's leading providers in the field of biodegradable and biobased plastics.
BASF and Shell found Elenac, a joint venture to produce ethylene. Its holdings include ROW as well as BASF’s polyethylene pilot plants and research activities. In October 2000, BASF and Shell decide to merge Elenac, Targor, and Montell into a joint venture for polyolefins known as Basell.
BASF’s listing on the stock market is converted from par-value (5 marks and 50 marks) to no-par-value shares, making it easier to convert its share capital to euros later on.
Together with 16 other major companies, BASF helps found the German industry’s Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future in February 1999. As a gesture of reconciliation, the companies donate funds to the foundation to provide payments to former forced laborers and other victims of the Nazi regime. In addition, a “fund for the future” is set up to support projects that promote international understanding. Alongside its humanitarian aims, the foundation seeks to attain a comprehensive and lasting settlement of legal claims against all the companies as well as their foreign parent and subsidiary enterprises. BASF donates 110 million marks to the fund. In July 2000, the final declaration on the launch of the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future is signed.
Together with a Swedish partner, the seed producer Svalöf Weibull, BASF sets up its own company to conduct plant biotechnology research – BASF Plant Science GmbH. BASF owns 85 percent of the new company, and Svalöf the remaining 15 percent. The company pursues research worldwide at the two partners’ sites, as part of a number of joint ventures, and in research projects together with universities. The aim is to develop new business fields in agriculture and nutrition, such as developing plants that are resistant to cold or drought, or that contain omega-3 fatty acids to protect against cardiovascular disease. In 2008, BASF acquires 100 percent of BASF Plant Science.
Following three years of development work, BASF is one of the first companies in the chemical industry to introduce eco-efficiency analyses. This new tool enables the company to analyze the life cycle of a product or production process “from cradle to grave,” and thus balance economic and environmental considerations. The analysis considers raw material and energy consumption, emissions, and the range of recycling and disposal options. If a product is neither eco-efficient nor improvable, alternatives are sought.
A compounding plant for Ultramid and Ultradur starts operations in Pasir Gudang, Malaysia. In 2005, its annual production capacity is expanded from 30,000 to 45,000 tons.
In 2000, BASF agrees to acquire the crop protection business of American Home Products Corporation (AHP), doubling the global sales of its Agricultural Products division.
The first plants at the site in Kuantan, Malaysia – BASF’s first Verbund site in Asia – start up production. With three value-adding chains (acrylic monomers, oxo alcohols, and butanediol), this Malaysian Verbund site is a key component in BASF’s strategy for the Asia Pacific region.
The Chinese government gives BASF and its Chinese partner SINOPEC the green light to construct a petrochemical Verbund site in Nanjing. The ground-breaking ceremony takes place in 2001, and the project makes BASF the largest foreign investor in the country’s chemical sector.
In July 2000, BASF becomes a founding member of the Global Compact, a United Nations initiative in which NGOs, corporations, international businesses, labor representatives, and key figures in science and politics join forces to develop strategies for responsible growth. By joining the initiative, BASF commits to promoting and implementing the Global Compact’s principles of human rights, labor relations, environmental protection, and anti-corruption. As part of Global Compact partnership projects, BASF also pursues joint projects with representatives from the public sector and/or NGOs.
To increase its competitiveness, BASF merges its textile dye operations with those of DyStar, a joint venture of Bayer and Hoechst. BASF’s indigo dye needed for jeans and its portfolio of vat, dispersion, and reactive dyes complement the DyStar product range. The new Frankfurt-based DyStar Textilfarben GmbH & Co. Deutschland KG becomes the world’s largest supplier of textile dyes. BASF holds a 30 percent stake, while Bayer and Hoechst hold 35 percent each.
Abbott Laboratories Inc. based in Illinois acquires BASF’s pharmaceuticals business in March 2001.
BASF’s acquisition of the vitamin business of Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd., Japan, makes the company the second-largest producer of vitamins in the world. Today, BASF continues to be one of the leading manufacturers of vitamins for human and animal nutrition worldwide.
In June 2001, BASF becomes one of the first companies to establish a Sustainability Council, which ensures that the principles of sustainable development are implemented throughout the Group.
Under the motto Fit for the Future, BASF puts a new organizational structure into place. The 38 regional and 10 global business units are designed to further improve customer proximity and market presence.
A production plant for F 500, a new class of strobilurins, starts operations in Schwarzheide in September 2001. This improved active ingredient for fungicides is used in products such as Opera‚ Cabrio, and Comet. A second F 500 plant is inaugurated in April 2010.
In 2002, authorization is given to start constructing an integrated production complex for polytetrahydrofuran (PolyTHF) and tetrahydrofuran (THF) in Shanghai, China. When operations begin in 2005, this new plant has a capacity of 60,000 tons, making it the largest PolyTHF facility in the world.
Ellba Eastern (Pte.) Ltd., a 50-50 joint venture by Shell and BASF for the production of styrene and propylene oxide, starts operations in Singapore. It is the largest plant of its kind in Asia at the time.
BASF strengthens its position on the world market for acrylic acid and acid derivative products with the launch of a plant to make superabsorbers in Antwerp, which is the world’s largest at the time. In March 2010, the one millionth ton of superabsorbers is produced. The plant has an overall annual capacity of 175,000 tons.
BASF launches a project in Ludwigshafen called “Site future here & now!” with the aim of securing and strategically developing the company’s main site. One of the project’s most visible features is the appointment of a director for the Ludwigshafen site. After running for three years, the project is successfully completed in 2005, with cost levels at the production site reduced on a sustainable basis by 480 million euros a year.
In 2003, a new state-of-the-art logistics center opens at the Ludwigshafen site. As Europe’s largest chemicals terminal for optimized shipping of packaged products, it replaces around 50 smaller external storage facilities in Ludwigshafen and Mannheim. The new center reduces the number of truck trips across the region by 25,000 every year.
Acquisition of the Fipronil insecticide and selected seed treatment fungicides from Bayer CropScience strengthens BASF’s product portfolio in the crop protection sector.
The Russian company Gazprom – the world’s largest producer of natural gas – and BASF subsidiary Wintershall found the Achimgaz joint venture to develop gas deposits in the Urengoy field in western Siberia. This is the first time that a German producer is actively involved in the production of natural gas in Russia.
A new world-scale plant for producing high-purity methanesulfonic acid starts operations at the Ludwigshafen site. The product, which is used mainly in the electronics industry, is manufactured using a novel process developed by BASF that produces virtually no emissions.
BASF announces its first long-term, globally valid goals for environmental protection and safety, and reports on the attainment of these goals.
Dr. Jürgen Hambrecht (born 1946, Chairman of the BASF Board of Executive Directors from 2003 to 2011) states in 2004:
“We have given a name to our roadmap for the future: BASF 2015. All of us must align our daily work activities with four strategic guidelines:
- Earn a premium on our cost of capital.
- Help our customers to be more successful.
- Form the best team in industry.
- Ensure sustainable development for a future worth living.
BASF is The Chemical Company, and with BASF 2015 we will remain the world leader in the chemical industry. We enter the future confidently with this promise and claim. Our brand, our new logo, and our new corporate design are also an expression of this more developed strategy.”
BASF acquires the US-based Foam Enterprises, thereby strengthening its polyurethane systems for rigid foam applications. Applications for these systems include roof and wall insulation, walk-in refrigeration systems, boat construction, and the sanitary sector.
In the Romanian town of Sighisoara, BASF subsidiary Wintershall and Romgaz start producing natural gas. This production alliance aims to extract 300,000 cubic meters of natural gas a day.
BASF’s Basotect foam is launched on the European market by Procter & Gamble under trademarks that include Mister Clean Magic Eraser. Proctor & Gamble honors BASF with an award for outstanding cooperation and innovation. Basotect is also used today as a fireproof and environmentally friendly acoustic insulating material.
BASF starts operations at its new world-scale plant for citral in Ludwigshafen, with an annual capacity of 40,000 tons. This fine chemical intermediate is the starting material for the production of vitamin A and E, carotenoids, and aroma chemicals, and it is a key element in BASF’s activities in the fine chemicals sector.
BASF, Bayer, and Hoechst sell their holding in DyStar, the Frankfurt- based manufacturer of textile dyes, to Platinum Equity, a private equity group in the USA.
In January 2005, BASF acquires the worldwide electronics chemicals business from Germany-based Merck KGaA. This makes BASF a leading supplier of electronics chemicals for the rapidly growing semiconductor and flat screen industries.
BASF begins building up a regional shared service center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It will take over financial and accounting services, information technology, and human resources for BASF Group companies in 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In Berlin, BASF starts establishing BASF Services Europe GmbH, a shared service center for Europe.
Together with eight other companies, BASF founds the initiative Wissensfabrik – Unternehmen für Deutschland (“Knowledge Factory – Businesses for Germany”), which focuses on promoting education as well as start-up companies.
BASF is the most prestigious chemical company in the world. This is the result of a survey conducted by Fortune, the US business magazine.
BASF and Shell Chemicals sell Basell, a 50-50 joint venture that is one of the world’s leading producers of polyolefins.
A new and highly efficient combined heat and power station at the Ludwigshafen site officially goes on the grid. The plant generates 480 megawatts of electricity and 650 tons of steam per hour. It replaces the central coal-fired power plant that ceased operations in 1999.
Together with the Chinese company SINOPEC, BASF inaugurates its new integrated Verbund site in Nanjing. Cutting-edge technology enables a steamcracker and nine downstream plants to start operations as planned at the 220-hectare site on the Yangtze River. This new site represents the largest investment in BASF’s history thus far, with the two partners investing a total of 2.9 billion US dollars.
BASF and Gazprom conclude a groundbreaking agreement on European energy supply. It involves the participation in the German-Russian, Baltic Sea pipeline, Nord Stream, whose first link will start operations in 2011. Furthermore, BASF and Gazprom agree to develop the Yuzhno Russkoye natural gas field. The production of natural gas in the west Siberian natural gas field can begin in 2008.
BASF expands its portfolio. The aim is to acquire businesses that are even more customer-oriented, and also driven by innovation and growth.
The acquisition of the Engelhard Corporation in June 2006, which is the leading supplier of materials for catalysis and surface finishing, is the largest takeover in BASF’s corporate history. Headquartered in Iselin, New Jersey Engelhard made a crucial contribution to the development of catalytic converters with its invention of the three-way catalytic converter that reached market readiness in 1976. With the merger of the two companies, BASF becomes one of the world’s leading suppliers in this dynamic and growing market, and at the same time expands into growth markets such as specialty pigments.
BASF takes over the worldwide construction chemicals business of Degussa AG headquartered in Germany. This includes production sites and sales centers in over 50 countries, as well as a research and development center in Trostberg, Germany.
BASF also finalizes its acquisition of Johnson Polymer B.V., a specialist in resins, thereby supplementing its resins portfolio with water-based technology and strengthening the company’s presence especially in North America.
BASF opens its first research center for nanotechnology in Asia. By the end of 2009, around 16 million euros will flow into the BASF Global Research Center in Singapore, which now focuses on the three areas of nano-structured surfaces, organic photovoltaics, and printed electronics.
Toray BASF PBT Resin Sdn. Bhd., a 50-50 joint venture of BASF Aktiengesellschaft and Toray Industries Inc. based in Japan, starts operations as planned of its world-scale plant for producing polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) at the Verbund site in Kuantan, Malaysia.
With its program known as Generations@ Work launched in 2006 and its global Diversity + Inclusion project launched in 2008, BASF addresses major demographic and social changes.
BASF, Huntsman, and their Chinese partners celebrate the startup of the integrated production complex for isocyanates at the Chemical Industry Park in Shanghai. This is BASF’s second-largest investment project in China. MDI and TDI isocyanates are important primary products for making polyurethanes.
BASF and The Dow Chemical Company lay the foundation stone for the production of propylene oxide (PO) based on hydrogen peroxide (HP) in the world’s first HPPO plant at the BASF site in Antwerp. Propylene oxide is an important preliminary product for the polyurethane industry.
Once again BASF appears in the renowned Climate Leadership Index, which lists companies that make a special contribution to addressing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A new plant for producing superabsorbers with a capacity of 180,000 tons starts up in Freeport, Texas in 2007. At the same time, the capacity of the plant in Antwerp, Belgium is increased from 60,000 to 175,000 tons.
A new site for polyurethane specialties is opened in Pudong, China: BASF Polyurethanes Specialties (China) Co. Ltd. is one of the company’s three most important centers of innovation in Asia.
The European chemical regulation REACH goes into effect. It governs the registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemical substances with the aim of ensuring a high level of protection for human health and the environment. It also seeks to promote alternative testing methods. BASF will register more than 2,000 substances by the year 2018.
BASF sells the major share of its premix business to Nutreco, a Dutch corporation in the animal nutrition sector.
BASF and Monsanto want to pursue long-term collaboration in research and development as well as in marketing plant biotechnology products. Some 1.5 billion US dollars are to flow into the development of stress-resistant and higher-yield crops.
Serving as an example in the chemical industry: BASF officially converts to a European Stock Corporation in 2008. This step is intended to underscore its “commitment to Europe,” and the company is now known as BASF SE (Societas Europaea).
BASF products contribute to climate protection by saving three times the volume of greenhouse gas emissions used to produce, apply, and dispose of these products. This is demonstrated by the comprehensive CO2 report, which BASF is the first company in the world to introduce.
With the acquisition of Ciba Holding AG, Basel/Switzerland, in April 2009, BASF becomes a leading global supplier of paper chemicals and products for water treatment. In 2010, BASF merges its two Swiss sites of BASF Schweiz AG in Wädenswil and Basel-based Ciba AG into BASF Schweiz AG with headquarters in Basel.
BASF responds rapidly and decisively to the economic crisis by temporarily closing individual plants, cutting back production, and devoting efforts to maintenance work. It supplements this economy program with flexible working time models.
In September, the ground-breaking ceremony is held for the expansion of the Nanjing Verbund site. BASF plans to invest 1.4 billion US dollars to expand the steamcracker, construct 10 new plants, and expand three existing plants.
In Guaratinguetá in Brazil, a new plant for making sodium methylate, a key product needed to manufacture biodiesel efficiently, is built with an annual capacity of 60,000 tons.
At the end of the year, BASF completes the acquisition of the specialty chemicals company Cognis in Monheim am Rhein/Germany. Thereby, BASF becomes the market leader in ingredients for personal care products and increases its range of products based on renewable raw materials.
With the establishment of the 50:50 joint venture Styrolution, BASF and INEOS, Industries Holdings Limited (UK), outsource their worldwide activities in the styrenics business in 2011.
BASF plans to strengthen its position as the world’s leading chemical company. In 2011, the company outlines how it wants to achieve this in its further developed “We create chemistry” strategy.
In 2050, around nine billion people will live on this planet. On the one hand, this population growth is associated with enormous global challenges but BASF also sees many opportunities, especially for the chemical industry.
At a press conference in Ludwigshafen end of November 2011, Dr. Kurt Bock (born 1958, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors since 2011) points out that the company has achieved its leading position thanks to its successful strategy in the past years: “We will build on this and make a significant contribution to meeting the needs of a growing world population.”
BASF aims to seize these opportunities by following its four strategic principles which have been further developed:
- We add value as one company
- We innovate to make our customers more successful
- We drive sustainable solutions
- We form the best team
“We have summarized what we do as a company in our corporate purpose: We create chemistry for a sustainable future,” says Bock.
The activities in the field of plant biotechnology are centered on the main markets in North and South America in 2012. Therefore BASF realigns the product portfolio and site strategy of BASF Plant Science. The headquarters of BASF Plant Science is moved from Limburgerhof to the USA. Its activities in the fields of research and development are bundled at the sites Raleigh, Gent and Berlin. The development and commercialization of all products, which are exclusively for the European market (Amflora amongst others) are stopped.
In November 2012, the official groundbreaking for the construction of the plant producing Tolouldiisocynat (TDI) takes place. TDI is the basis for the production of polyurethane. The new facility is the only plant in the world that can produce 300,000 tons per year in one single production line.
Kurt Bock, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, states in his speech at the Annual Shareholder’s Meeting meeting in 2013:
"We are a science-based company. That is why we are convinced that research can find a solution to every problem. We have been very successful with this attitude. In 2015, BASF will be 150 years old. If we look back at BASF in 1865 and at BASF today, it is easy to see that the company has constantly changed and developed. However, we remain driven by the same thing: We find out what trends are shaping society and what people require, and then we look for ways to meet these needs. This means research, development and testing until we are ultimately able to sell a new product. This is how innovations are created. And this idea is contained in our purpose: "We create chemistry for a sustainable future."
After seven years of research, BASF presents Slentite, a new high-performance insulation material for construction and refrigeration. The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a pilot plant takes place in Lemfoerde.
BASF opens Germany's first employee center for work-life management ("LuMit") in Ludwigshafen. Here, BASF bundles and expands its various offers concerning work-life-balance, mainly focusing on the areas work and family (LuKids), sports and health promotion (LuFit) and social counseling by the BASF foundation (LuCare).
In 2014, the BASF Group employs approximately 112,000 employees worldwide. Its portfolio ranges from chemicals, plastics, performance products and crop protection products to oil and gas. BASF has subsidiaries in more than eighty countries and supplies business partners with products in nearly every part of the world. It operates six Verbund sites and approximately 380 other production sites worldwide. The Verbund site in Ludwigshafen is the world's largest integrated chemical complex.
BASF celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2015.