BP Suffers $5 Billion Charge

LONDON -- BP (ISE: BP.L) (NYS: BP) slipped 3% to 429 pence in early London trade this morning after revealing underlying second-quarter profits of $3.7 billion. The figures from Europe's second-largest oil group also showed write-offs totaling $5 billion in relation to certain refineries, shale gas operations, and project suspensions in the U.S.

Today's Q2 profit was far below the $4.8 billion recorded during the first quarter of 2012 and the $5.7 billion struck during the second quarter of last year. BP said its latest results were depressed by weaker oil and gas prices and reductions in output due to extensive planned maintenance.

For good measure, the second-quarter numbers contained an extra $847 million charge relating to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP now estimates the overall bill for the incident will be $38 billion, of which $9 billion has already been paid in claims and a further $10 billion set aside in a trust fund.

Bob Dudley, BP's chief executive, admitted:

We recognise this was a weak earnings quarter, driven by a combination of factors affecting both the sector and BP specifically. ... The effects of price movements have affected our earnings in the quarter. Our extensive turnaround and maintenance programme, which will continue into the third quarter, is also affecting some aspects of our near-term results.

However, Dudley did add, "Moving into 2013, we expect earnings momentum to build as we complete payments into the [Gulf of Mexico] Trust Fund, as high-value production comes back on line, and as the impact of new projects ramp up."

Indeed, BP said it expects to increase operating cash flow by 50% from 2011 levels in 2014, assuming the oil price stays around $100 a barrel. Such improvements may help the dividend, which currently runs at $0.08 per share per quarter, supporting a 4.7% income.

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