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BP profits hit by Angola write-off; CEO says it's preparing for 'new oil price environment'

  • The British oil giant's profits were down from $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2017 and lower than the $720 million reported over the same period in 2016.
  • BP's results were tainted by a $750 million write-down, mainly in connection with its stalled project in Angola.
A BP company logo sits on a flag as it flies on the forecourt of a gas station operated by BP Plc in London, U.K.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A BP company logo sits on a flag as it flies on the forecourt of a gas station operated by BP Plc in London, U.K.

BP beat analyst expectations on Tuesday, despite profits more than halving from the first three months of the year after a hefty charge from an unsuccessful project in Angola.

Here are some of the highlights from the earnings:

  • Underlying replacement cost profit, used as a proxy for net profit, $684 million in the second quarter vs. expected $500 million from a company-provided consensus.
  • Revenue of $57.37 billion versus $50.62 billion expected by Thomson Reuters analysts' consensus.

The British oil giant's profits were down from $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2017 and lower than the $720 million reported over the same period in 2016. Shares of BP were more than 3.6 percent higher during morning deals on Tuesday.

"We continue to position BP for the new oil price environment, with a continued tight focus on costs, efficiency and discipline in capital spending," Bob Dudley, chief executive officer at BP, said in a statement shortly after the second-quarter results were announced.

BP's results were tainted by a $750 million write-down, mainly in connection with its stalled project in Angola. The company relinquished its 50 percent stake in a block off the coast of the southern African country because it was adjudged to no longer be commercially attractive.

Major oil companies are under pressure from investors to show progress has been made toward covering spending and dividends with cash generation. Further to this, stubbornly low oil and gas prices are causing companies to wrestle with their portfolios in order to become more competitive. BP said Tuesday that the write-off had no impact on cash flow.

'Strong operational performance'

"We delivered strong operational performance in the first half of 2017 and have considerable strategic momentum coming into the rest of the year and 2018, with rising production from our new upstream (exploration and production) projects and marketing growth in the downstream (the refining of petroleum crude oil)," he added.

BP currently has one of the highest "breakeven" prices among its peers, after a series of acquisitions at the start of the year pushed up its spending plans. The estimated oil price at which BP's upstream assets would offset its costs stands at $60 a barrel, above the market rate of around $50 a barrel.

"I think the most important thing is that there was a very strong cash generation again this quarter from BP," Jason Gammel, global integrated oil and gas equity research analyst at Jeffries, told CNBC on Tuesday.

"This is the second quarter in a row where we calculate that the company is covering the cash component of their dividend with free cash flow … I think that's the most important thing to focus on today," he added.

While Gammel warned he did not envisage BP getting back to "pre-Macondo" production levels anytime soon, referring to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, he did say the company appeared to be in the "very final stages" of dealing with the economic losses connected to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster.

BP's payments related to the Gulf of Mexico settlement are poised to reach between $4.5 billion and $5.5 billion in 2017, while an additional $2 billion is expected to be paid in 2018. The company has so far paid a pre-tax total of $63.2 billion in clean up costs and penalties, Reuters reported.

BP's latest figures comfortably surpassed analyst expectations on Tuesday, joining European peers such as Total and Royal Dutch Shell in posting forecast-beating results for the second quarter.

Royal Dutch Shell reported last week that its profits were three times larger than over the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, French oil and gas giant Total also beat expectations on Thursday, posting a 14 percent increase in adjusted net income when compared to the second quarter in 2016.