BP beats forecasts but profit still drops nearly 50 per cent

 
Rebecca Smith
BP announced an unchanged dividend for the quarter of 10c per ordinary share
BP announced an unchanged dividend for the quarter of 10c per ordinary share (Source: Getty)

Falling crude prices have bitten BP hard. The oil giant has reported a 49 per cent drop in third quarter earnings - its ninth consecutive quarter of falls.

The figures

The oil giant reported third quarter profit of $933m (£762m) on an underlying replacement cost basis, up from $720m for the previous quarter, but down from the $1.8bn reported this time last year. BP said it was affected by a weaker price and margin environment and hit by "a number of mainly one-off and non-cash items".

Net profit was $1.62bn, smashing expectations of $686m.

Underlying operating cash flow, which includes pre-tax Gulf of Mexico payments, was $4.8bn for the quarter and $13.3bn for the first nine months of the year, helped along by reliable operations and lower cash costs.

The group slashed its capital expenditure guidance, saying it expects next's year's figure to be in the range of $15bn to $17bn, down from the $17bn to $19bn it originally forecast.

The company announced an unchanged dividend for the quarter of $0.10 per ordinary share, expected to be paid in December.

Shares fell 2.9 per cent to 469.7p in early trading.

Why it's interesting

Chief executive Bob Dudley has been under the spotlight from executive pay critics, after it was announced earlier this year he'd be taking home £14m. That's a 20 per cent bump in his pay packet in a year BP announced its biggest ever operating loss, that resulted in a shareholder backlash (though the vote was non-binding). So all eyes are on BP (and Bob Dudley).

Oil prices remain a sticking point: although prices are up more than 30 per cent this year, it said Brent crude prices had averaged at $46 a barrel during its third quarter, less than the $50 it sat at last year - hence the cut in capex. The bad news is, the rally oil had after OPEC's agreement to cut output in September isn't lasting.

Still, at least it can finally draw a line under Deepwater Horizon: the final legal settlement over the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was made in April, a mere six years after it happened.

(NB. our reviewer called the movie version a "relentless onslaught of explosions and grease" - in theatres now...)

What BP said

BP's chief financial officer Brian Gilvary said:

We continue to make good progress in adapting to the challenging price and margin environment. We remain on track to rebalance organic cash flows next year at $50 to $55 a barrel, underpinned by continued strong operating reliability and momentum in resetting costs and capital spending.

At the same time we are investing in the projects, businesses and options to deliver growth in the years ahead.

In short

A mixed bag. On the plus side, BP beat expectations. On the negative, its third quarter earnings slumped 49 per cent (ouch).

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