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BP Slammed on Oil Price Plunge But Still Beats Consensus

BP plc on Tuesday posted a 19% decline in third quarter profits from a year ago, in part impacted by the global oversupply in crude oil, and in part on a huge drop in profits from its near-20% stake in Russia's OAO Rosneft, but the producer still beat Wall Street consensus by a wide margin.

BP's replacement cost profits, similar to net profits under generally accepted accounting principles, were $2.39 billion, down from $3.18 billion in the year-ago period. Net profits in 3Q2014 fell to $1.29 billion from $3.5 billion. Operating cash flow jumped by almost one-third to $9.4 billion from $6.3 billion. The results, which took into account asset sales, the effect of overseas tax rates and lower commodity prices, were 11% higher than Wall Street's consensus estimates.

"BP's operational momentum continues to deliver results," Group CEO Bob Dudley said. "Growing underlying production of oil and gas and a good downstream performance generated strong cash flow in the third quarter, despite lower oil prices. This keeps us well on track to hit our targets for 2014."

Management's confidence in delivering 2014 operating cash flow targets even on lower oil prices led the company to announce a quarterly dividend of 10 cents/share, a 5.3% year/year increase payable in December.

BP has cut its capital expenditure plans through the rest of the year, however. It now expects to spend around $23 billion, down from previous guidance of $24-25 billion. At the end of September, net debt was equivalent to a gearing level of around 15%, within the target of 10-20%. The financial framework is both at a "conservative level of gearing and a strictly disciplined approach to investment," CFO Brian Gilvary said. Almost $4 billion in assets have been announced for sale to date this year, with at least $10 billion more targeted through 2015.

Lower commodity prices cut into upstream division's profits, which fell year/year to $3.9 billion from $4.4 billion. Total reported oil and natural gas production averaged 3.1 million boe/d. Excluding Russia, output was up by 4.1% to 2.1 million boe/d.

Rosneft, in which BP owns almost 20%, took a toll on the quarterly report, with net income for its stakes falling year/year to $110 million from $808 million. The depreciation of the ruble against the U.S. dollar had a big impact, along with lower Russian oil prices and tax effects.

BP for the period kept its total cumulative pre-tax expense at $43 billion for the 2010 Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. However, last month U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier of the Eastern District Court in New Orleans, who is overseeing the multidistrict litigation, ruled that BP Exploration & Production Inc. committed gross negligence and willful misconduct under the U.S. Clean Water Act, and BP therefore is subject to enhanced civil penalties (see Daily GPI, Sept. 4). BP is appealing the ruling.

BP also reported Tuesday that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has ended an investigation without any charge into whether BP was involved in oil price fixing. Investigations into oil price fixing by BP and other operators are ongoing by regulators in Japan and Europe, and by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which have no deadline to complete their inquiries, the company said. The FTC case is unrelated to one by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Enforcement, which is investigating whether BP manipulated the U.S. gas market in 2008 (see Daily GPI, Sept. 23).

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