Worldwide chemical sales rise six percent to nearly $400 billion

July 24, 2000

Sales for the 50 largest chemical producers totaled nearly $400 billion, a six percent increase over the year before, according to the July 24 edition of Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

German chemical giant BASF captured the largest share of worldwide chemical sales in 1999 for the fourth straight year. Following BASF on the list were DuPont, Bayer and Dow Chemical, duplicating the results from 1998. Sales figures ranged from more than $31 billion for BASF to nearly $19 billion for fourth-place Dow.

Industry mergers changed the listing slightly. ExxonMobil joined the top five producers after the two companies joined last year, earning nearly $14 billion. Degussa-Hüls and BP Amoco, also the product of mergers, placed ninth and 10th on the listing, respectively.

Although sales for the top 50 companies rose, the average operating profit margin declined slightly, indicating that the industry is on the down side of its traditional cycle, according to Patricia Short, who reported the findings.

Companies in Europe accounted for 54 percent of international sales, followed by companies in the United States with 32 percent, companies in Japan with 10 percent, and companies elsewhere with the remaining four percent. European sales were little changed from last year, while sales of U.S. and Japanese companies rose 14 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

Weakness of the "Euro" - the common European currency introduced in 1999 - held down sales, according to the report. The top 50 list included 25 European countries, the same number as the year before.

Making the top 50 list has become more difficult: the cutoff figure rose to $3.54 billion in 1999 from $2.98 billion in 1998. Companies that dropped off the list in 1999 included W.R. Grace, Occidental Petroleum, and Phillips Petroleum. Companies new to the list in 1999 included Aventis and Rhodia of France, which ranked 17 and 27, respectively, and U.S.-based PPG Industries and Equistar, which ranked 29 and 30, respectively.

In other findings from the report, capital spending decreased more than 16 percent to $32 billion, and research and development spending rose nearly two percent to about $12 billion.
A nonprofit organization with a membership of 161,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. (

The full text of the report is published in Chemical & Engineering News, available online at

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