German chemicals giant BASF said on Tuesday that it was "cautiously optimistic" for business this year after it met its targets last year. "2013 was again a demanding year, with a lot of headwind for our industry. Nevertheless, we achieved our goal," chief executive Kurt Bock told the group's annual earnings news conference. "Overall, we expect to perform well in a market environment that remains challenging in 2014," Bock continued. Sales were set to decline as a result of the planned divestment of the group's gas trading and storage business, but earnings were expected to improve, he said. In 2013, BASF booked net profit of 4.842 billion euros ($6.7 billion), an increase of 0.5 percent over the year-earlier figure. Underlying or operating profit, as measured by earnings before interest and tax (EBIT), was up 8.2 percent at 7.19 billion euros on a 2.6-percent increase in sales to 73.973 billion euros. Sales were driven mainly by a "considerable, mainly volumes-driven sales increase in the oil and gas and agricultural solutions divisions," BASF said. Despite higher volumes, sales declined slightly in the chemicals business, "mainly on account of negative currency effects," it said. "We do not expect strong tailwinds this year," said CEO Bock. "Nevertheless, we are cautiously optimistic with regards to global economic development. The world economy is expected to grow slightly faster in 2014 than in 2013, despite continuing volatility," he said. For the global chemical industry, BASF was anticipating similar growth rates to last year and somewhat higher growth in key customer industries such as the transportation, consumer goods and electronics industries. "This will likely have a positive effect on BASF's business," Bock said.