BP to cut 3 percent of upstream jobs by year-end

(Reuters) - British oil giant BP Plc said it plans to cut 3 percent of jobs in exploration and production, as part of a restructuring of its global upstream business to make the division more efficient and competitive.

A BP spokesman said the cuts of around 540 jobs from the company's 18,000-strong total upstream workforce will be carried out by the end of the year.

The move is part of an ongoing process to simplify the company's structure and increase efficiency, following the $50 billion worth of divestments over recent years, BP said in a statement. It did not comment on any possible cost savings associated with the redundancies.

BP held out the prospect of a first dividend increase since 2014, after first-quarter profits beat forecasts earlier this month, thanks to rising oil and gas prices and production.

The 110-year old company is undergoing its fastest growth in recent history with new oil and gas fields from Egypt and Oman to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, riding a tide of higher oil prices following the 2014 downturn.

BP remains committed to developing its upstream opportunities and delivering its existing five-year growth strategy, the company said in an emailed response on Tuesday.

Shares of the company were down 1 percent at 1410 GMT.

(Reporting By Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru and Ron Bousso in London; Editing by Arun Koyyur)