(Adds sales, detail on outlook, comparison to consensus)
FRANKFURT, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Germany's BASF said on Tuesday its third-quarter operating profit dropped 5.4 percent to 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion), beating analysts' average expectations of 1.3 billion.
The world's largest chemicals maker said the drop was mainly a result of divesting its natural gas trading activities.
"Earnings in the Performance Products, Functional Materials & Solutions and Agricultural Solutions segments are considerably higher than in the prior year quarter," it said in a pre-release of the results which were scheduled for Oct. 27.
Third-quarter sales dropped 19.6 percent to 14 billion euros, which was broadly in line with what analysts polled by Reuters had predicted.
The group still expects 2016 sales to drop by 6 percent or more, while operating profit excluding special items is expected to come in as much as 10 percent below last year's. ($1 = 0.8928 euros) (Reporting by Harro ten Wolde; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)