BASF CEO Hambrecht says ‘worst yet to come’

22 April 2009 14:44  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS news)--The economic crisis will likely continue through mid-to-end 2010, with “the worst yet to come,” BASF CEO Juergen Hambrecht said in an interview with German business journal manager-magazin on Wednesday.

“I am working on the assumption that we have not yet seen the worst,” Hambrecht told the journal, which issued a press release on the interview.

"It's getting tighter and tighter, globally," Hambrecht said.

In Germany, lower energy prices and relatively high collective wage agreements were supporting the economy, Hambrecht said.

However, consumer sentiment would worsen with rising unemployment, he said.

Avoiding job losses was a top priority in the crisis, Hambrecht said, but he would not rule out cuts, even at BASF’s base in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

Under a 2004 deal with workers, BASF committed to maintaining employment at Ludwigshafen.

However, that agreement was sealed during much better times and could be re-opened to address unforeseen events such as the current economic crisis, Hambrecht told the journal.

Asked about BASF’s Schwarzheide site in eastern Germany, Hambrecht said all BASF sites worldwide were subject to the same criteria. If they were not competitive, their viability would be reviewed, he said.

Hambrecht also called on the government to extend subsidised short-time working programmes to 24 months, from 18 months.

Last week, BASF announced it was preparing short-time working for up to 3,000 employees at the Ludwigshafen production hub in response to continued weak demand.

Economists have warned that the many short-time working schemes implemented by companies were hiding the true extent of underemployment in Germany’s economy and warned of a sharp increase in unemployment by year-end.

According DIW, a Berlin-based economic research institute, some 800,000 German workers were on short-time working hours. These government-subsidised schemes are time-limited, usually run out after 18 months.

manager-magazin will publish the full interview with Hambrecht in its hardcopy issue on Friday, it said.

For more on BASF visit ICIS company intelligence
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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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