BP resumes dividend payments

BP logo with money

There was good news for BP investors on Tuesday, as the company resumed dividend payments with a fourth-quarter pay-out of seven cents.

The restoration of the dividend comes nine months after its suspension, as BP looked to save cash to pay for the clean up after the Gulf of Mexico incident, costing shareholders £4.9 billion.

The dividend will be welcomed by investors, despite falling considerably short of the payments they were receiving in 2009.

In a series of announcements as part of its final results, the beleaguered oil firm revealed fourth-quarter profits of $4.61 billion (£3.1 billion) - compared to last year's figure of $3.45 billion - and its decision to sell half of its US refining capacity.

The 2010 fourth-quarter figure includes a pre-tax charge of $1 billion related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Overall losses

For the full year, the company reported a loss - its first since 1992 - of $4.91 billion, including a total pre-tax charge related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill of $40.9 billion. In 2009, it had made a replacement cost profit of $13.96 billion.

Cash expenditures relating to the Gulf of Mexico incident were $5.4 billion in the fourth quarter and $17.7 billion for the year pre-tax. This includes contributions by BP to the trust fund of $2 billion in the fourth quarter and $5 billion for the year. BP said its provision for future claims under the Gulf of Mexico compensation scheme was increased by $4.7 billion in the fourth quarter.

Earnings per ordinary share in the fourth quarter rose to 24.55 cents from 18.38 cents the year before.

The 2010 reported reserves replacement ratio, excluding acquisitions and disposals, was 106%.

Net debt at the end of the quarter was $25.9 billion, compared to $26.2 billion a year earlier. The ratio of net debt to net debt plus equity was 21% compared to 20% a year earlier. The group intends to reduce the net debt ratio to within the range of 10-20%.

Read: What does 2011 have in store for BP?

In a surprise announcement, BP said it intends to seek buyers for the Texas City refinery in Texas, where 15 workers were killed and 170 injured in an explosion in 2005, and the Carson refinery near Los Angeles, together with its associated integrated marketing business in southern California, Arizona and Nevada.

Subject to regulatory and other approvals, BP plans to complete the sales by the end of 2012, thereby halving BP's US refining capacity.

The company is restructuring its business and has already sold interests in Argentina, North America, Venezuela, Vietnam, Colombia and Egypt.

Earlier this month, BP announced a $10 billion partnership with the Russian state-controlled oil firm Rosneft to explore for oil in the Russian Arctic.

The friction this caused with existing joint venture TNK-BP investors will see BP in the High Court on Tuesday in the latest chapter of its turbulent history.

This article was written for Interactive Investor

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