LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany – Shares of BASF AG began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in a signal that Europe's biggest chemical producer is in the hunt for U.S. acquisitions, industry observers said. With trading in New York, BASF and other European companies can attract more U.S. investors and could use U.S. shares as currency for acquisitions.

BASF recently completed a $656.5 million purchase of a chemical business from Amcol International Corp. of Arlington Heights, IL, and the company also recently acquired the former Morton International Inc. industrial coatings business from Rohm and Haas Co.

BASF Chief Executive Juergen Strube has said the company is looking for further acquisitions. BASF already ranks third among U.S. chemical makers, and about 23% of the company’s total 1999 sales of 29.6 billion euros ($27.6 billion) came from North America. Only DuPont Co. outranks BASF in total chemical sales worldwide.