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Changing of the guard at European chemical firms

BASF, Borealis, Covestro, and Solvay bring in new CEOs as they report first-quarter results

by Alex Scott
May 13, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 20


Credit: BASF

A changing of the guard is under way in Europe as CEOs move on at the big chemical firms BASF, Borealis, Covestro, and Solvay. The changes at the top come at the same time that European companies are announcing varied financial performance for the first quarter of the year.

Kurt Bock, BASF’s chairman since 2011 and only the second leader of the firm without a science background in its 153-year history, made way on May 4 for Ph.D. chemist Martin Brudermüller, a board member since 2006. Brudermüller, who retains his position as chief technology officer, takes over as the firm posted a 2% decrease in net profits for the first quarter to $2.1 billion. Sales were down 1% to $20.5 billion compared with the same period a year ago. Bock attributed the sales decline to an 8% negative currency effect.

Credit: Borealis

Covestro, Bayer’s former plastics business, “got off to a successful start in the first quarter and [is] well on track for the whole year,” according to Chief Commercial Officer Markus Steilemann, who takes over as CEO from Patrick Thomas on June 1. Covestro’s net profits for the quarter increased 38% to $794 million on sales that were up 5% to $4.7 billion. “We continue to benefit from increasing demand for sustainable solutions and superior materials,” Steilemann claimed.

Credit: Covestro

It’s not just German firms installing new leaders. On July 2, Vienna-based plastics producer Borealis will bring in Alfred Stern, currently its head of polyolefins and innovation, as CEO to replace the departing Mark Garrett, who has held the role for 11 years. Borealis reported that first-quarter net profits were down 23% to $296 million on flat sales of $2.5 billion.

Solvay disclosed in recent days that it will part ways with Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, its CEO of six years, by year-end. The Brussels-based firm reported a 54% slump in net profits in the first quarter to $134 million. Sales were down 3% to $3.1 billion.

Contrastingly, Lanxess will hold on to Matthias Zachert, its CEO of four years, signing him up to lead the company until April 1, 2024. Zachert continues to make the firm more profitable. Profits for the first quarter increased 23% to $118 million on sales that were up 7% to $3.2 billion.



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