LONDON — Oil and natural gas giant BP beat expectations on Tuesday with earnings of $3 billion in the last three months of 2023, bringing last year’s total to half its record 2022 profit as energy prices have fallen since spiking after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
London-based BP reported its underlying replacement cost profit, which excludes one-time items and fluctuations in the value of inventories, down from $3.3 billion in the previous quarter.
It brought in $13.8 billion for all of last year, a huge drop from the $27.7 billion it earned in 2022, when Russia’s war in Ukraine sent oil and natural gas prices surging. Those prices drove inflation and contributed to a cost-of-living crisis, drawing outrage from consumers facing higher utility bills while energy companies recorded explosive growth in their bottom lines.
Energy prices have since fallen as a weak global economy holds back demand for fossil fuels to power cars, planes, factories and more. That, along with lower industry refining margins, has helped send earnings tumbling for other oil majors like Shell and Exxon Mobil.
Despite the drop in annual earnings, BP kept its dividend steady and said it would buy back $1.75 billion in shares as well as commit to $3.5 billion in additional share buybacks for first half of this year. The company’s stock rose 5.75% in morning trading.
“Looking back, 2023 was a year of strong operational performance with real momentum in delivery right across the business,” CEO Murray Auchincloss said in a prepared statement. “We are confident in our strategy, on delivering as a simpler, more focused and higher-value company.”
It’s the first earnings report since Auchincloss permanently got the top job last month. A former BP chief financial officer, Auchincloss had served as interim chief executive since Bernard Looney resigned in September after it emerged that Looney had failed to disclose to the board past relationships with company colleagues.
Environmentalists and other groups said energy giants like BP are prioritizing shareholders over fighting climate change.
“It’s clear that BP and other fossil-fuel giants can’t be trusted to drive the green transition: they will always prioritize their shareholders over the needs of the economy and the planet,” said Joseph Evans, researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research.
It’s a pressure that the energy industry is facing, with companies like BP and Shell pledging to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
“With the move to renewables yet to prove consistently profitable or practical across many technologies, there are many challenges to be overcome,” Richard Hunter, head of markets for interactive investor, said in an emailed analysis.
BP pointed to an agreement to acquire the rest of solar and battery storage company Lightsource bp and a joint venture to bring more EV chargers to Spain and Portugal in the coming years. However, it also announced late last year the startup of an oil and gas project in the North Sea that it expects to add about 15,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2025.