(Reuters) - Top BASF China executive Markus Kamieth is leading the race to succeed Martin Brudermueller as CEO of the German chemicals giant, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Kamieth oversees operations in Greater China, South and East Asia, ASEAN and Australia and New Zealand, according to BASF's website.
Kamieth is said to be the clear favourite and is backed by Brudermueller, after Saori Dubourg, who headed BASF's European business, left the company in February, the FT report said.
A person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named, told Reuters BASF chief technology officer Melanie Maas-Brunner was still a possible candidate alongside Kamieth.
The source added the supervisory board led by former BASF CEO Kurt Bock would pick a successor at the beginning of October at the earliest.
A BASF spokesperson said there has been no decision yet on Brudermueller's succession, declining to comment further.
Both Kamieth and Maas Brunner support BASF's focus on investment in China, which runs counter to German government efforts to persuade companies to reduce their reliance on China.
Brudermueller, whose contract runs until April 2024, has been a driving force behind a 10 billion euro ($11.21 billion) chemical complex that BASF has started building in Zhanjiang, southern China, as it banks on booming Asian markets and seeks to reduce reliance on weak European home markets.
Dubourg, an executive board member since 2017, quit BASF this year because she did not support the company's commitment to China given rising tensions between Asia's superpower and the West, sources have told Reuters.
The Zhanjiang project is one of BASF's two major investment projects. The other is the build-up of a global supply of electric vehicle battery materials.
Brudermueller, who has been CEO of BASF since 2018, was chosen in May to take over as head of the supervisory board of Mercedes-Benz next year.
Earlier this month, BASF cut its full-year earnings forecast, becoming the latest chemical company to be caught out by weak demand from industrial clients and higher interest rates.
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(Reporting Ludwig Burger and Patricia Weiss in Frankfurt, Gursimran Kaur in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza, Sabine Wollrab and Barbara Lewis)