Bosses at BP will unveil the oil giant’s first annual loss in nearly two decades on Tuesday following a disastrous year for the blue-chip company.
But analysts and investors are hopeful chief executive Bob Dudley will resume dividend payments – after their suspension over the summer – in a signal that the British firm is recovering from last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
BP is expected to report a loss of at least 4.5 billion US dollars (£2.8 billion) in its full-year results, after the tens of billions it set aside to cover costs of the Deepwater Horizon disaster are deducted.
The return of BP’s dividend would be a key development for pension holders as well as investors given the stock previously accounted for an estimated one in every six pension pounds invested. The quarterly dividend is expected to be around seven cents a share – half the level announced in April.
BP upped its bill estimate to cover the cost of the oil spill to 40 billion US dollars (£25 billion) in November, but analysts do not expect this to increase and have latched on to recent signs that only half of the 20 billion US dollar (£12.6 billion) compensation fund will be required.
The financial hit from the oil spill will offset underlying replacement cost profits of 21 billion US dollars (£13.2 billion) for the full year. Profits for the fourth quarter are expected to be around 4.9 billion US dollars (£3.1 billion).
BP has managed to claw back around 20 billion US dollars (£12.6 billion) through asset disposals – by selling interests in Argentina, North America, Egypt, Venezuela, Vietnam and Colombia.
The company has been able to benefit from a gradual increase in oil prices over 2010, which hit 90 US dollars a barrel at around the year end. But production is likely to be 10% lower than a year earlier due to the impact of the US drilling moratorium and asset disposals following the disaster, while extended maintenance periods will also impact output.
As well as the restoration of the dividend, the City will be looking for an update on the company’s strategic overhaul.
In the words of new chief executive Mr Dudley, the firm is on a “journey to re-establish trust in BP around the world – especially the US”. It suffered a public relations disaster after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig last April which killed 11 people and dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.