BP's profit hits $5 billion but shares slip on slowing buybacks

  • Reuters
  • Stock Market News
BP's profit hits $5 billion but shares slip on slowing buybacks

By Ron Bousso and Shadia Nasralla

LONDON (Reuters) - BP (LON: BP ) made a $5 billion profit in the first quarter of 2023, a rise on the previous three months on the back of stellar oil and gas trading, but its shares fell sharply as it slowed a share buyback programme.

The forecast-beating results from BP follow a strong showing by rivals including Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM ) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) last week as oil majors continue to benefit from energy prices that remain elevated despite some softening since the start of the year.

But BP's shares closed more than 8% lower in London trading, their largest daily drop since March 2020, after it said it would repurchase shares worth $1.75 billion over the next three months, down from $2.75 billion in the previous three.

The smaller target is a result of a significant drop in operating cash flow to $7.6 billion during the quarter from $13.5 billion in the final quarter of 2022.

BP will still exceed its goal of using 60% of surplus cash to buy its own shares, but investors were disappointed and its forecast for lower oil and gas production in the second quarter also weighed on investor sentiment.

The lower share buyback "will more than offset the good operational performance as BP is the first international oil company...to cut buybacks this quarter," Jefferies analysts said in a note.

The London-based company repurchased a total of $11.7 billion worth of shares in 2022.

EXCEPTIONAL TRADING

First-quarter underlying replacement cost profit, BP's definition of net income, reached $4.96 billion, up from $4.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022 and above expectations of $4.3 billion in a company-provided survey of analysts.

The profit reflects "an exceptional gas marketing and trading result, a lower level of refinery turnaround activity and a very strong oil trading result", BP said, noting a partial offset from lower oil and gas prices and refining margins.

Benchmark Brent crude oil prices averaged $81 per barrel in the first three months of the year, down 16% from a year earlier and 7% from the fourth-quarter.

BP had reported a $6.25 billion profit in the first quarter of 2022, on its way to a record $28 billion annual figure.

Its dividend remained unchanged at 6.61 cents per share after a 10% increase in February. BP had previously halved its payout in the wake of the pandemic.

Graphic: BP's profit - https://www.reuters.com/graphics/BP-RESULTS/znpnbqkgepl/chart.png

WINDFALL TAX

BP said it expects oil and European gas prices to remain strong in the second quarter even as refining profit margins are expected to weaken due to lower diesel prices.

Fuel demand in Europe has been "a little bit" soft while consumption in China has been strong following the lifting of pandemic restrictions, BP Chief Financial Officer Murray Auchincloss told analysts on a call.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The BP logo is seen at a BP gas station in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 24, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

BP also said it expects to pay $1 billion under a UK windfall tax on the oil and gas sector between May 2022 and April 2023.

Graphic: BP's operating cashflow - https://www.reuters.com/graphics/BP-CASHFLOW/zgpobykdkvd/chart.png

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