BP boss Bob Dudley said today the oil giant had reached a clear turning point after announcing quarterly pre-tax profits of more than £4.5billion.
Just over 18 months after the Gulf of Mexico Macondo disaster, Mr Dudley said the firm was safer and stronger and was planning to double exploration and increase its cash flow 50% by 2014.
He also said BP was looking sell off a further £9.4billion of assets on top of an existing £18.8billion divestment package as part of plans to refocus the business and invest in “high value assets”.
Despite a 12% fall in output during the three months to September 30, compared with the previous quarter, Mr Dudley said production had turned a corner in October.
“We have now reached a definite turning point,” he said, adding: “Our operations are regaining momentum and we are facing the future with great confidence.
“I believe we will build on our strengths to substantially grow operating cash flows, allowing us to directly increase returns to shareholders as well as invest for future growth.”
BP, which recently resumed drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, has 17 major upstream projects over the next three years.
A spokesman was unable to say if North Sea fields could be among the extra £9.4billion of assets it plans to sell, adding: “We will look at all our assets.”
But he said the firm was still committed to the North Sea, as indicated by recent major multi-billion investment announced in four significant projects at Kinnoull, Devenick, Schiehallion and Clair Ridge.
BP is currently marketing southern North Sea assets put up for sale in February.
Third quarter profits were down on the second quarter but more than quadruple the £940million in the same period last year and above analysts’ expectations.
Comparing the first nine months of 2011 to the same period in 2010, the firm has moved to profits of £17billion from pre-tax losses of £8.1billion – showing how far it has come post-Macondo.
Third quarter total revenue and other income came in at just under £61billion, up from £46.6billion a year earlier but down on the £64.9billion seen in the second quarter of 2011.
Production dropped by 12% in the latest period, compared with the same three months of 2010, which BP said was primarily due to lower Gulf of Mexico output.
Total production should improve after turnaround programmes in the UK North Sea, Angola and Gulf of Mexico, the firm added.
BP said it would announce a detailed strategic plan, including an update on its dividend policy, in February.
It will stop making payments into a £25billion Gulf of Mexico clear-up fund following a recent £2.5billion settlement with Macondo well partner Anadarko.
Brian Gilvary, 49, the firm’s head of finance, becomes chief financial officer on January 1, 2012. Current chief financial officer Byron Grote, 63, will take up a new role as executive vice president, corporate business activities.