By Ron Bousso and Karolin Schaps
LONDON (Reuters) – BP’s profit nearly tripled in the first quarter of 2017 from a year earlier thanks to higher oil prices and production, and as its sharp cost cutting drive bears fruit.
BP joined oil major rivals including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total in posting stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings, mostly thanks to higher oil and gas prices.
The results could assuage concerns among investors, who were jolted when BP in February raised the oil price at which it can balance its books this year to $60 a barrel after a string of investments.
Investors are now turning their attention to cash generation that will allow companies to cover spending and dividend payouts and reduce ballooning debt.
London-based BP is set to start up eight projects this year, including in Oman and Azerbaijan, the largest number in the company’s history in a single year. It hopes to add 800,000 barrels per day of new production by the end of the decade.
“Rising production from new upstream projects is expected to drive a material improvement in operating cash flow from the second half of 2017,” the company said in its results statement.
BP reported first-quarter underlying replacement cost profit, the company’s definition of net income, of $1.51 billion, exceeding analysts’ average forecast of $1.26 billion.
Its operating cash flow in the quarter rose to $4.4 billion from $3 a year earlier
Oil prices, a major driver for BP’s earnings, averaged around 35 percent above prior-year levels, helping to boost revenue from its core oil and gas production division.
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps and Ron Bousso; Editing by Mark Potter)