BP bags bumper 2023 profits, rewards investors

BP bags bumper 2023 profits, rewards investors

BP bagged a net profit of $15.2 billion last year
BP bagged a net profit of $15.2 billion last year. Photo: BRUCE BENNETT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/Getty Images via AFP/File
Source: AFP

British energy giant BP logged multi-billion-dollar annual profits Tuesday despite lower oil prices and following boardroom turmoil, sending its share price rallying thanks also to more big payouts to investors.

Net profit came in at $15.2 billion in 2023, following a loss the prior year linked to its exit from Russia following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, it said in a results statement.

The annual results sparked fresh fury from the green lobby but herald a new era under new chief executive Murray Auchincloss, following the dramatic sacking of his predecessor Bernard Looney.

The oil giant suffered a net loss of $2.5 billion in 2022, when it booked a gigantic charge of $24 billion on its exit from Russian energy group Rosneft.

Reflecting lower oil prices and refining margins last year, BP revealed Tuesday that underlying profit excluding exceptional items halved to $13.8 billion.

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That compared with a record $27.7 billion the prior year when prices of fossil fuels had surged on key gas and oil producer Russia's assault on neighbouring Ukraine, boosting the performance of the global energy sector.

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Shares rallied six percent to top London's FTSE 100 risers board after BP also announced forecast-beating fourth quarter profit, vast stock buybacks and a shareholder dividend hike.

BP will deliver $1.75 billion in buybacks for the fourth quarter of last year.

It also revealed $3.5 billion for the first half of this year under plans to buy back at least $14 billion over 2024-2025.

'Resilient performance'

"BP joins the throng of the other global oil majors in capping off a difficult year with a resilient performance which beat expectations on most metrics," said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

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The global industry was also energised in 2022 by rebounding demand and prices, as the world economy emerged from Covid pandemic lockdowns the prior year.

Prices have since declined but remain elevated due to concerns that the Israel-Hamas conflict could spark broader unrest in the crude-rich Middle East.

"Looking back, 2023 was a year of strong operational performance with real momentum in delivery right across the business," Auchincloss said in the earnings release.

BP's former chief financial officer took the reins in September, after Looney resigned and was later officially sacked over his failure to disclose past relationships with colleagues.

Activist investor Bluebell Capital last week urged BP to scale back its "irrational" clean energy ambitions to "invest in clean energy" like biofuels and hydrogen, rather than areas like renewable energy where the investment fund claims the group has no competitive advantage or experience.

'Destination unchanged'

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However, BP stressed on Tuesday that it remains committed to its energy transition strategy.

"As we look ahead, our destination remains unchanged -- from international oil company to integrated energy company -- focused on growing the value of BP," added Auchincloss.

BP had diluted its long-term carbon emission reduction targets one year ago for its oil and gas production.

Environmental campaigners Greenpeace on Tuesday slammed it for "falling far short" in tackling climate change.

"The company is still making billions from fossil fuels and its green policies fall far short of what's needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change," said Charlie Kronick, senior climate advisor at Greenpeace UK.

"We simply cannot leave the future of the planet in the hands of executives and shareholders concerned only with cashing in on fossil fuels until the band stops playing."

UK rival Shell revealed last week that annual net profit more than halved in 2023 on lower oil and gas prices, but it returned $3.5 billion to shareholders and hiked its dividend.

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US rivals Chevron and ExxonMobil also posted lower but still strong profits, and pushed ahead with hefty shareholder payouts.

Source: AFP

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