BP beyond petroleum? Not just yet . .

THE latest ads extol its green credentials with the snappy line "Beyond Petroleum", yet BP remains an oil company at heart.

The energy giant's latest results show that black gold continues to drive profits.

In the nine months to September, BP's earnings were more than 8.4 billion, up by a quarter on a year earlier and nudging its annual surplus of 8.7 in 2004.

Yet the headline figures mask some disappointment.

The recent hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico hit production and blew a hole in the British oil firm's third-quarter result.

Output for the period was two per cent down on a year ago because of storm damage and more platforms being shut down in the North Sea for maintenance than expected.

BP's earnings from retailing fuel also fell short of the mark as the firm was unable to fully pass on recent oil price rises to customers. A relief for motorists, perhaps, but not so sweet for shareholders.

The marketing men would have us believe that Britain's biggest blue-chip is leading the world in the race to secure greener sources of energy.

True, it may be ramping up investment in areas such as solar power and natural gas production, but that still represents a drop in the ocean compared with extracting and refining oil.

Pressure groups even accuse BP of splashing out more on advertising its environmental friendliness than on environmental actions.

Whichever way you lean, one fact is unavoidable. Like its peers, BP and its profits will remain exposed to oil market vagaries for some time yet.

Jack in the chair

BUSINESS appears to have become something of a buzzword for our Jack - and not before time.

Having fronted a major initiative to hone trade links with China and outlined a timetable to cut the rates burden, the First Minister is to take personal charge of the Executive's efforts to further boost Scotland's 5 billion financial services industry

by chairing the recently-formed Financial Services Advisory Board.

Here's hoping he listens closely to the sector's needs.