BP is expected to restart its dividend payments alongside its quarterly results tomorrow, its first since the Gulf of Mexico spill last April.
Analysts are expecting BP to report income of more than $5bn (£3.15bn) for the last three months of 2010.
Chief executive Bob Dudley has strongly hinted that a shareholder pay-out is on the cards, saying in an interview when he started the job in October that the board would discuss restoring a dividend payment in the first quarter of 2011.
BP has cancelled dividend payments totalling £5.4bn in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which a US commission said was caused by “systematic failures of management”.
Analysts have predicted a 10 per cent drop in production compared to a year ago, thanks to the drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico and to BP’s ongoing asset sell-off to pay for the clean up.
However, one poll of analysts predicted an underlying net income of $5.09bn for the quarter, which would be a 16 per cent rise compared to the final quarter of 2009, on the back of soaring oil prices.
The gains would mean a pre-tax loss of $4.5bn for the year, allowing for fluctuations in the price of oil – the firm’s first annual loss in 20 years.
Analysts have scaled back their estimates of how much the Gulf spill will cost BP, after the compensation fund’s head predicted that only half of its $20bn pot will be needed.