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BP profit falls 80% as oil prices drop; result beats estimates

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BP Plc reported a 80 per cent decline in first-quarter earnings as crude oil prices continued to slide and a mild winter weighed on refining margins.

[LONDON] BP Plc reported a 80 per cent decline in first-quarter earnings as crude oil prices continued to slide and a mild winter weighed on refining margins.

Profit adjusted for one-time items and inventory changes fell to US$532 million from US$2.6 billion a year earlier, the London-based company said in a statement Tuesday. Analysts had expected a loss of US$244.9 million, according to the average of 12 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The average price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, slumped to the lowest in almost 12 years in the quarter. That hampered efforts by Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley to boost earnings even after he trimmed billions of dollars of spending, cut thousands of jobs and deferred projects to weather the market rout.

BP's quarterly results, the first among the world's oil majors, are likely to be an indication of how the others will perform.

Brent's decline below US$28 a barrel in January made crude cheaper for BP's refineries, yet weak fuel demand during a mild winter in Europe and the US drove down refining margins.

Global processing margins dropped to US$10.50 a barrel in the first quarter, 31 per cent lower than a year earlier and 20 per cent lower than the preceding quarter, according to data on BP's website.

Oil has rallied since then, rising above US$45 as US crude production slows and major producers including Saudi Arabia study a possible cap on output. The increase in prices has pushed up BP's shares 1.8 per cent this year after a 14 per cent decline in 2015.

The company started cutting costs and selling assets following the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In October, it lowered its 2015 capital-spending forecast to about US$19 billion after investing about US$23 billion in 2014.

BP said then it expects to spend US$17 billion to US$19 billion a year through 2017.

Total SA is scheduled to publish first-quarter earnings on Wednesday. Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp will announce results on April 29 and Royal Dutch Shell Plc on May 4.

BLOOMBERG