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Helping boost the bottom line was BP's upstream business which posted an underlying recurring cost profit, before interest and tax, of almost $3.2 billion, up from less than $1.4 billion over the first quarter of 2017.

Like the handful of big oil firms that have already reported in recent days, London-based BP benefited handsomely from recently lofty oil prices.

BP noted the upstream segment had posted its strongest quarter, on both a replacement cost and underlying basis, since the third quarter of 2014.

"But overall, a strong set of results in terms of earnings".

The company said Tuesday its replacement cost profit - a number analogous to the net income that USA oil companies report - was $2.4 billion in the first quarter, compared with $1.4 billion in the same period a year earlier. BP received the biggest criminal fine in USA history after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed 11 people in April 2010 and saw 4.2 million barrels of oil spilt into the Gulf of Mexico.

BP last October announced plans to buy back $1.6 billion in shares per year, becoming the first European oil and gas major to resume buybacks after a three-year downturn. The company's gearing, the ratio of net debt to equity, was 28 per cent, an increase from 27 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2017, BP said. "Cash flow was good but messy, with less cash tax paid than expected".




Rival oil major Royal Dutch Shell last week reported a 42% rise in underlying quarterly profits to $5.3bn (£3.8bn). Oil prices fell to as low as about $25 a barrel by 2016, though have recovered strongly since then.

Chief Financial Officer Brian Gilvary said the London-listed company might consider raising the dividend later this year if oil prices remain near current levels and debt declines. Global crude is now trading near $75 a barrel.

The company's production rose 6% in the first quarter compared with a year ago. That included the final installment from a settlement with the Justice Department to resolve all criminal claims.

During the quarter, BP completed another $200m (£146m) worth of divestments as it continues to sell off assets, and kept its guidance for between $2bn (£1.5bn) and $3bn (£2.2bn) over the full year. Payments are expected to be just over US$3 billion in 2018, weighted to the first half of the year.

BP caps a mixed earnings season for the world's biggest oil companies. Underlying profit was up 23 per cent on the previous quarter and was our best quarterly result in three years.


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