BP hikes dividend as fights back from oil spill
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British oil group BP Plc raised its dividend on Tuesday, confident it can bounce back from a devastating U.S. oil spill with a rejigged business in Russia and a focus on exploration and oil production over fuel refining and gas.
BP has fallen to a distant fourth in the top tier of oil and gas companies after the 2010 Macondo well disaster, and amid uncertainty over the future of its Russian operations.
It has shed vast chunks of its business to raise cash to pay compensation for the spill, which followed an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 people and triggered the United States' worst ever offshore environmental catastrophe.
On Tuesday, chief executive Bob Dudley outlined BP's preparedness for a court battle with U.S. authorities over the spill, and declared a new Russian strategy announced last week a truly distinctive position in one of the world's largest and most important oil and gas provinces.
He also outlined the oil and gas firm's plans beyond 2014 for the first time, predicting a future focused more on oil and exploration, and lifted BP's dividend by 12.5 percent to 9 cents a share, the second hike since the spill interrupted payouts.
Clearly the board is giving a signal of confidence regarding the medium term, said Societe Generale analyst Irene Himona, adding the dividend was a material positive surprise.
BP said third-quarter underlying replacement cost profit fell to $5.2 billion from $5.5 billion a year ago. A shrinking business, lower production and lower crude prices took their toll, but were partly offset by strong refining margins and the company's highest availability of refinery capacity in years.
The result was ahead of analysts' expectations of around $4.1 billion, mainly because of the record refining result, and up from $3.7 billion in a weak second quarter.
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