Chemicals giant BASF reported on Thursday a leap in sales of 22 per cent for the year 2000, the biggest in its history. Speaking at a conference. Sales climbed to almost Euro 36 billion and income from operations before special items rose by more than 15 per cent to Euro 3.4 billion. In vitamins, BASF has significantly strengthened its position as number two in the world by acquiring the vitamins business of Takeda. In each quarter, the company raised sales volumes by an average of 6.5 per cent. BASF also reported double-digit growth in sales in the last quarter of 2000. However, as a result of the slowdown of the U.S. economy income from operations in the fourth quarter was at the previous year's level. Speaking at the BASF Annual conference chairman Dr. Jürgen F. Strube, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, commented that the first half-year of 2000 will be somewhat subdued for BASF and the industry as a whole, but that business will pick up momentum in the third and fourth quarters. "In general, we are positioning ourselves for the upturn in the chemical market expected in 2002 in the United States and the world markets. BASF's product range includes fine chemicals, plastics, colorants, pigments and vitamins. The company has over 103,000 employees.