BP investing in 'strategic transformation' as soaring oil price boosts profits

Soaring oil and gas prices have helped energy major BP notch up a better-than-expected profit haul in the third quarter.

Underlying replacement cost profits jumped to $3.3 billion (£2.4bn) in the three months to September 30, up from just $86 million (£63m) a year earlier when oil prices had slumped due to the Covid pandemic.

The oil giant’s third-quarter profits also mark a notable rise on the previous three months, when it notched up profits of $2.8bn.

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It also unveiled another $1.25bn of share buybacks, which it said will be completed before its full-year results announcement.

BP remains one of the world's largest oil producers but has been steadily moving into renewables and other green technologies.

However, on a reported basis, BP tumbled to a $2.9bn quarterly loss as it booked a $6.1bn hit from the accounting treatment of soaring forward gas prices.

Chief executive Bernard Looney said: "This has been another good quarter for BP - our businesses are generating strong underlying earnings and cash flow while maintaining their focus on safe and reliable operations.

"Rising commodity prices certainly helped, but I am most pleased that, quarter by quarter, we're doing what we said we would - delivering significant cash to strengthen our finances, grow distributions to shareholders and invest in our strategic transformation."

The prices of crude and gas have rocketed amid surging demand as the global economy has rebounded from the early days of the pandemic, while oil cartel Opec has increased production slowly after deep cuts made last year as the crisis struck.

BP and FTSE 100 rival Royal Dutch Shell have both enjoyed a boost to profits and delivered cheer to investors by increasing dividends and buying back shares.

Stuart Lamont, investment manager at wealth management firm Brewin Dolphin, said: “BP has carried the momentum of the first half of 2021 into the third quarter, with a set of results that beat estimates.

“Underlying replacement cost profit – its preferred measure of profit or loss – is ahead of the second quarter of this year and well ahead of the same period in 2020, while debt has ticked down and cashflow is strong, buoyed by higher and more sustained commodity prices.

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“A further share buyback and an attractive dividend are good news for shareholders, but this update being delivered during COP26 is a reminder that BP has a long road ahead of it in becoming a low carbon energy company.”

Richard Hunter, head of markets at investment platform Interactive Investor, noted: “The cash tills are ringing at BP given the oil price headwind, but an accounting adjustment has driven a [reported-basis] loss for the quarter.”

He added: “The oil majors have long recognised the need to provide renewable energy on a multi-decade view as opposed to the ultimately finite resource on which these companies were founded.

“For BP, this is partially driven by a move towards low carbon alternatives, although the cost of such a fundamental shift is a huge commitment over time.”

BP also said it has continued paying down its debt pile, which had jumped in early 2020 amid the oil price slump.

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BP share price soars as the oil giant offers $1.4bn share repurchase and dividen...

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