Clear-up overshadows clean-up

THE BIG clear-up that will have to take place in the Gulf of Mexico is overshadowing the fact that BP cleaned up in the first quarter. It is not only higher crude prices that have bolstered profits. The oil major reduced administrative costs by 24 per cent quarter-on-quarter and by 10 per cent on the same period last year.

Excess capacity continues to weigh on the refinery and marketing division, although improved margins have helped cushion the blow. This arm lost $729m (£478m) in the first three months of the year, much narrower than the $1.9bn loss in the fourth quarter of 2009. S&P thinks margins and ebitda will edge up by two percentage points by the end of the full year.

But this doesn’t account for the cost of the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. It is too early to speculate on the final number, but remember this: the Texas refinery disaster cost $87.4m in fines and billions more in compensation for the victims.

Analysis by David Crow