HOECHST SEES SLOW GROWTH DURING '90

HOECHST SEES SLOW GROWTH DURING '90

Hoechst-Celanese Corp., based in Somerville, N.J., expects flat or slightly slower growth in 1990 because of the general downturn in the economy, the company's top officers said this week.

In 1989, the chemical company's operating income fell 10 percent to $502 million, down from $550 million a year earlier. Total 1990 capital investment will be approximately $400 million, up slightly from the $380 million spent in 1989.Because of the continued softness in the U.S. economy, the company's Chemical Group is hoping for a "mirror image" of its 1989 performance, but could experience up to a 5 percent drop in production volume, Tom Kennedy, the group's president, said.

The Chemical Group, which produces methanol, formaldehyde, solvents, acetyl chemicals, oxo alcohols, ethylene oxide and glycols, and acrylates, had sales of $1.65 billion in 1989.

Although Hoechst, a major producer of methanol for fuel and chemical uses, does supply some of its methanol to methyl-tertiary-butyl-ether producers, Mr. Kennedy said that it would not significantly expand its operations to follow potentially greater cleaner burning fuel-related uses, since countries like Argentina and Brazil, which have massive natural gas reserves, would invest to become major players in the market.