BP Bucks Trend of Big Oil Earnings Misses
(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc bucked the trend of disappointing oil and gas earnings, beating expectations and increasing its cash flow as higher production offset the effect of lower energy prices.
The company’s performance brightens what has so far been a weaker-than-expected second quarter for Big Oil. While companies are more profitable today than they were at $100 crude after slashing costs, they were caught in recent months by falling natural gas prices. Total SA, Eni SpA and Equinor ASA all fell short of analysts’ estimates even as their output rose.
“What we have is solid performance in both upstream and downstream,” Chief Financial Officer Brian Gilvary said in an interview. In the last couple of years “we’ve had four of what I would call strong quarters. Everything is going well across the piece.”
London-based BP said adjusted net income was $2.81 billion in the second quarter, compared with $2.36 billion a year earlier. That exceeded even the highest analyst estimate, meaning the company has surpassed expectations in all but one of the previous ten quarters, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“BP showed one of the best surprises of this quarter,” Ahmed Ben Salem, an analyst at Oddo BHF, said by phone. “Cash flow generation is robust” and trading results were positive, although downstream came in below expectations, he said.
Shares of the company rose 3.4% to 545 pence as of 8:20 a.m. in London, the biggest increase in about six months.
In April, BP paid the final cash installment for its purchase of U.S. shale oil and gas fields from BHP Group Ltd. Those assets helped boost output, which rose 3.4% to 3.79 million barrels of oil equivalent a day in the quarter. That figure includes the contribution of Rosneft PJSC, the Russian oil company in which BP owns a nearly 20% stake.
The company said it expects third-quarter production to be lower due to seasonal maintenance activities in the North Sea, Angola and the Gulf of Mexico.
Cash flow from operations excluding payments related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill -- another key measure of whether the BHP deal is paying off -- rose 17% from a year earlier to $8.2 billion. On top of the payment for the U.S. fields, BP also paid about $1.4 billion in penalties associated with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.
That spending pushed a measure of company’s debt to the highest in at least a decade. Gearing, the ratio of debt to equity, was 31%, the third-straight quarter above 30%. BP will sell $4 billion to $5 billion of assets this year, part of a plan to complete $10 billion in divestments by 2020 and use the proceeds to reduce gearing, Gilvary said.
Adjusted profit in BP’s refining, marketing and chemicals division was down 21% from a year earlier to $1.37 billion due to significantly higher maintenance shutdowns, lower margins and weaker North American heavy crude differentials. That was partially offset by a stronger contribution from supply and trading, the company said.
BP said it expects a lower level of maintenance in the third quarter, but also predicted lower refining margins.
--With assistance from Rakteem Katakey and Eddie Spence.
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