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BP profits surge 71 percent amid oil price rally

  • Underlying replacement cost profit, used as a proxy for net profit, came in at $2.586 billion in the first-quarter vs. $2.2 billion expected by a company-provided analyst consensus.
  • "We have delivered another strong set of results. Our safe and reliable operations and strong financial delivery have continued into 2018," BP CEO Bob Dudley said in a statement.
  • The latest figures come at a time when the environment for oil companies is dramatically improving, amid signs the energy market is rebalancing and crude futures have rallied to multi-year highs.
Nick Ansell | PA Images | Getty Images

BP beat analyst expectations on Tuesday, as higher crude prices and rising production levels helped to fast-track a recovery in one of Europe's largest oil and gas companies.

Here are the key first-quarter metrics:

  • Underlying replacement cost profit, used as a proxy for net profit, came in at $2.586 billion in the first-quarter vs. $2.2 billion expected by a company-provided analyst consensus.
  • First-quarter production rose to 3.7 million barrels per day, up 6 percent from the previous year.

The British oil giant posted first-quarter underlying replacement cost profit, used as a proxy for net profit, of $2.586 billion. That was enough to beat forecasts of $2.2 billion for the first three months of 2018, according to a company-provided survey of analysts.

"We have delivered another strong set of results. Our safe and reliable operations and strong financial delivery have continued into 2018," BP CEO Bob Dudley said in a statement.

"Moving through 2018 we're determined to keep delivering our operational targets and maintaining capital discipline while growing cash flow and returns," he added.

Cash flow generation

The world's leading oil companies are set to generate greater amounts of cash in 2018, following a sustained period of cutbacks in recent years.

Nonetheless, while most executives have tended to urge caution amid uncertainty over oil prices in the near and long-term, BP CEO Bob Dudley had described the company's fourth-quarter figures as their "best earnings in recent history."

"I think what you're seeing coming through those earning numbers is an improved ramp-up of the projects … underlying production growth in the upstream of around 14 percent and a resilient downstream," Brian Gilvary, chief financial officer at BP, told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Tuesday. Upstream is classed as the exploration and production aspects of the oil industry.

"So overall a strong set of results this quarter," he added.

The latest figures come at a time when the environment for oil companies is dramatically improving, amid signs the energy market is rebalancing and crude futures have rallied to multi-year highs.

The main driver for a recent uptick in oil prices has been a supply cut from major oil producing group OPEC and its allied partners, who started to withhold output in January last year. The production cuts are scheduled to continue throughout 2018.

The move has helped to stabilize crude futures and support oil companies in recent quarters. Brent crude traded at $74.81 a barrel on Tuesday morning, up 0.1 percent, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $68.71 a barrel, 0.2 percent higher.

"We expect improving earnings and cash generation to show through early 2018 as BP captures higher commodity prices and widening crude spreads," Biraj Borkhataria, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said in a research note Tuesday.

"We expect BP's cash flow generation to improve this year, both on an absolute basis and relative to peers. This should help improve confidence around BP's dividend," Borkhataria added.

On Thursday, Shell reported a 42 percent rise in profits during the first three months of the year, underpinned by a recent uptick in oil and gas prices. The Anglo-Dutch firm said steady progress in its divestment program had helped the company beat analyst expectations, though some external observers were concerned about its cash flow generation.