LONDON: BP boosted its dividend and share buybacks after beating expectations with a US$2.8 billion second-quarter profit powered by higher oil prices and recovering demand.
The strong results, underpinned by higher sales at petrol stations, bolster BP's plan to shift away from oil and gas to renewable and low-carbon energy in an effort to battle climate change, CEO Bernard Looney told Reuters.
"The strengthening of the balance sheet and the excess cash flow allow us to prosecute our agenda around the energy transition," Looney said.
BP shares were up 2.7 per cent by 7.54am GMT (3.54pm, Singapore time) versus a 1.15 per cent gain for the broader European energy index.
Rivals including Royal Dutch Shell, TotalEnergies and Chevron also boosted shareholder returns last week, reflecting a recovery from the pandemic which saw energy demand plummet.
BP increased its dividend by 4 per cent to 5.46 cents after it was halved to 5.25 cents in July 2020 for the first time in a decade.
BP also plans to repurchase US$1.4 billion in shares in the coming months after generating surplus cash of US$2.4 billion in the first half of the year, it said.
In April, BP launched a US$500 million buyback plan to offset dilution from an employee share distribution programme.
Looney said in a statement that the measures were possible due to a stronger performance as well as "an improving outlook".
BP expects global oil demand to recover to pre-pandemic levels sometime in the second half of 2022.
BP's underlying replacement cost profit, the company's definition of net earnings, reached US$2.8 billion in the second quarter, beating the US$2.15 billion expected by analysts.
That was up from US$2.63 billion in the first quarter and marked a rebound from a loss of US$6.68 billion a year earlier.
The results were also due to stronger demand for fuel, including aviation fuel, as well as higher profit margins at convenience stores in BP's petrol stations, it said.
BP's net debt fell dropped to US$32.7 billion from US$40.1 billion.
BP said it has increased its price forecast for benchmark Brent crude oil to 2030 to reflect expected supply constraints, while also lowering its longer-term price forecast because it expects an acceleration in the transition to renewable energy.
As a result, the company increased the pre-tax value of its assets by US$3 billion. That comes after writedowns of more than US$17 billion last year.
The company said at an oil price of US$60 a barrel, it expects to be able to buy US$1 billion in shares and boost its dividend by 4 per cent annually through 2025.
Brent oil prices rose in the second quarter to an average of US$69 a barrel from US$61 in the previous quarter and from US$29.56 a year earlier.