BP hikes dividend, looks beyond 2014

Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:50am EDT
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By Andrew Callus and Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) - British oil company BP Plc (BP.L: Quote) raised its dividend on Tuesday and signaled a more upstream-focused future beyond 2014 along with stronger than expected quarterly profits.

Chief Executive Bob Dudley also outlined the British group's preparedness for a court battle with U.S. authorities over its 2010 U.S. Gulf oil spill, and declared the new Russian strategy it announced last week a "truly distinctive position in one of the world's largest and most important oil and gas provinces."

Third quarter underlying replacement cost profit fell to $5.2 billion from $5.5 billion a year ago. A shrinking business, lower production and lower crude prices took their toll, but the effect was partly offset by a co-incidence of strong refining margins and the company's highest availability of refinery capacity in years.

The result was ahead of analysts' expectations of around $4.1 billion, mainly because of the refining result, and up from $3.7 billion in the second quarter.

BP jacked up its dividend by 12.5 percent to 9 cents a share, its second dividend increase since the spill interrupted payouts.

"They're very strong numbers. They've successfully captured in Q3 refining margins, certainly within the U.S. so that's the reason for the strength within the Q3 earnings," said Bernstein analyst Oswald Clint.

BP has fallen to a distant fourth in the top tier of oil and gas companies after the Macondo well disaster, and amid uncertainty over the future of its Russian operations.

The company had shed vast chunks of its business since the spill that killed 11 people and triggered the United States' worst ever offshore environmental disaster in a bid to raise enough cash to pay compensation.   Continued...

A logo on a British Petroleum petrol station is seen in London April 30, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville