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BP posts earnings beat as profits triple on higher oil prices

BP beat analyst expectations on Tuesday as higher oil prices and increased production helped improve the oil giant's bottom line.

Here are some highlights of the earnings:

  • EPS of $0.07 vs. $0.06 a share expected by Thomson Reuters analysts' consensus.
  • Revenue of $55.86 billion versus $49.98 billion expected by Thomson Reuters analysts' consensus.
  • Dividend unchanged at 10 cents per share.
  • Net income of $1.51 billion, compared to Reuters average analysts' expectations of $1.26 billion.

BP matched its major oil rivals Exxon Mobil, Total and Chevron in terms of reporting stronger-than-anticipated earnings for the first three months of the year, thanks in large part to higher oil and gas prices. Britain's oil major almost tripled its underlying replacement cost profit, used as a proxy by oil firms for net profit, from the year previous when it posted $1.5 billion for the first quarter.

The earnings results could help to soothe lingering worries among investors who appeared to have been spooked when, in February, BP announced oil prices would need to hit $60 a barrel this year in order for the London-listed firm to balance its books following a series of investments.

BP is poised to initiate eight projects this year, including in the Middle East, which would represent the largest amount in a single year for the oil firm. It has said it plans to add 800,000 barrels of oil per day of new production by 2020.

"Our year has started well," Bob Dudley, chief executive officer at BP, said in a statement shortly after the first-quarter results were announced.

Dudley described BP's first-quarter earnings and cash flow as "robust" before adding, "We have shown continued operational momentum - it was another strong quarter for the downstream (refining) and the first of our seven new upstream (exploration and production) major projects has started up, with a further three near completion. We expect these to drive a material improvement in operating cash flow from the second half."

BP's shares jumped over 2 percent higher during early morning deals on Tuesday.

Oil prices not going higher 'anytime soon'

Oil prices, which are a major driver of BP's earnings, are approximately 35 percent higher than 12 months ago and appeared to have spurred revenue growth from BP's core oil and gas division.

Julian Chillingworth, chief investment officer at Rathbone Brothers, suggested he was "quite cautious" in regards to the energy sector given the apparent reluctance for oil prices to move significantly higher than around $50 a barrel.

"I don't think the oil price, and it's always a dangerous thing to say, is going that much higher anytime soon and so consequently I think we would always want to have participation in the sector but it may not be as big a part of portfolios as it was 10 years ago," Chillingworth told CNBC on Tuesday.

Brent crude traded at around $51.56 a barrel on Tuesday morning, up 0.1 percent, while U.S. crude was around $48.82 a barrel, down 0.02 percent.