BP hikes dividend as profit beats forecasts
Oil giant BP hiked its dividend by 5.6 percent Tuesday as its third-quarter profits beat forecasts.
CEO Bob Dudley attributed the strong earnings, which sent the shares 5 percent higher in morning trade, to strong operational progress and a focus on disciplined investment.
"The sector is out of favor. We have to manage our capital very very carefully, we are going to keep our capital next year about the same as this year... I think our shareholders will like that message," Dudley told CNBC.
Its Russian operations are performing very well, he added, and its ligation issues are an ongoing problem but investors should focus on BP's production growth and its ability to find new oil and gas projects, he said.
"We had two significant discoveries this quarter already, I think they should look at us as a fundamentally sound oil and gas company," he said.
Underlying replacement cost profit, a common accounting practice to report profits in the oil industry which takes into account the fluctuations in the price of oil, came in at $3.7 billion for the third quarter. That compared with $3.17 billion forecast in a Reuters poll. In the second quarter, BP missed expectations
Operating cash flow in the quarter was $6.3 billion, with Dudley adding that the group's target for cash flow in 2014 was still on track.
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He added that the company intends to continue its program of focusing its business portfolio worldwide around BP's key assets and strategic strengths and expects to divest a further $10 billion in assets before the end of 2015.
The company would continue to review share buybacks and dividend hikes, Dudley said.
"I think our shareholders have been very very patient with BP," he said, adding that he is "optimistic" on future share price.
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Litigation to last a long time
Dudley said that the litigation related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill is likely to last a long time and the company is suffering an "overhang" from the event with heavy media interest focusing on the issue.
The group said $19.3 billion of its $20 billion compensation fund for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill had now been paid or assigned, leaving $700 million unassigned. At its last earnings report in July, BP said its $20 billion oil spill compensation fund had almost run out, after provision for costs leaped by $1.4 billion in the second quarter.
In October, BP won a legal reprieve in its effort to force the administrator of a settlement related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill to tighten standards in assessing claims. This could potentially spare the oil company billions of dollars in extra costs. BP said on Tuesday said that there were now significant uncertainty as to the amount of claims which have been processed but not yet paid and that will be determined to be payable in the future.
"It's very hard to follow it all. From the very beginning we also said we would step up, we would meet our obligations, we have been doing that. And that's why most recently we have actually actually said were'e going to speak up when claims are going out the door when they are claims we don't agree with," Dudley said. "All we can ask for is a fair hearing in the courts."
BP has reduced its provisions for these claims to $9.2 billion but said it will continue to revisit the provision in future quarters.The total cumulative net charge to BP's accounts related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill now stands at $42.5 billion, it said.
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