“2020 will forever be remembered for the pain and sadness caused by COVID-19. Lives were lost – livelihoods destroyed. Our sector was hit hard as well. Road and air travel are down, as are oil demand, prices and margins. It was also a pivotal year for the company. We launched a net zero ambition, set a new strategy to become an integrated energy company and created an offshore wind business in the US. We began reinventing bp – with nearly 10 thousand people leaving the company. We strengthened our finances – taking out costs and closing major divestments. And through all of this, the underlying operations of the company remained safe – one of our safest years – and reliable, and major new projects were brought on line. I appreciate our team’s commitment to deliver the energy the world needed and am grateful for the support we received from investors and the communities where we work. We expect much better days ahead for all of us in 2021.”
Bernard Looney, chief executive officer
In the media
1Q in detail
Strong results and cash flow delivery
Reported profit for the quarter was $4.7 billion, compared with $1.4 billion profit for the fourth quarter 2020.
Underlying replacement cost profit* was $2.6 billion, compared with $0.1 billion for the previous quarter. This result was driven by an exceptional gas marketing and trading performance, significantly higher oil prices and higher refining margins.
Operating cash flow* of $6.1 billion was underpinned by strong business performance, with a working capital* build (after adjusting for inventory holding gains) of $1.2 billion including $0.5 billion of severance payments. This build was largely offset by other timing differences.
Divestment and other proceeds were $4.8 billion in the quarter, including $2.4 billion from the divestment of a 20% stake in Oman Block 61 and $1.0 billion final instalment for the sale of the petrochemicals business.
Net debt target achieved, $500 million share buybacks in the second quarter
Net debt* reduced by $5.6 billion to reach $33.3 billion at the end of the quarter. Having reached $35 billion net debt, bp is now retiring this target and remains committed to maintaining a strong investment grade credit rating.
bp is introducing an intent going forward to offset dilution from vesting of awards under employee share schemes through buybacks. Surplus cash flow* is now defined after the cost of buying back these shares.
In addition, bp remains committed to returning at least 60% of surplus cash flow to shareholders through share buybacks, subject to maintaining a strong investment grade credit rating. In considering the quantum of buybacks, the board will take account of the cumulative level of, and outlook for, surplus cash flow with the intention to provide guidance on a quarter-forward basis while macro uncertainties remain.
In the second quarter, bp intends to offset the expected full-year dilution from the vesting of awards under employee share schemes through buybacks, at a cost of around $500 million.
Subject to maintaining a strong investment grade credit rating, the board is committed to using 60% of surplus cash flow for buybacks, planning to allocate the remaining 40% to further strengthen the balance sheet and support our strong investment grade credit rating.
During the first quarter, bp generated surplus cash flow of $1.7 billion after having reached its net debt target of $35 billion. During the second quarter, cash flow is expected to be impacted by the $1.2 billion pre-tax annual Gulf of Mexico oil spill payment, further severance payments and a smaller improvement in realized refining margins relative to the quarter to date rise in our RMM*. As a result of these factors we expect a cash flow deficit in the second quarter.
In the second half of the year bp expects to generate surplus cash flow above an oil price of around $45 per barrel with an RMM of around $13 per barrel and Henry Hub of $3 per mmBtu.
bp will provide an update on our third quarter buyback plans at the time of our second quarter results, taking into account the surplus cash flow in the first half of the year as well as the outlook for surplus cash flow.
Disciplined strategic progress
Oil production & operations: in April in the Gulf of Mexico, the Argos platform for bp's Mad Dog 2 development arrived, on track for start-up in 2022, and bp announced the high-quality Puma West oil discovery.
Customers & products: bp agreed to acquire a stake alongside Daimler and BMW in Digital Charging Solutions, a leading developer of digital charging software, and bp pulse announced the roll out of new EV-only ultra-fast charging hubs across the UK. bp also added further strategic convenience sites* to its network during the quarter.
Gas & low carbon energy: bp and EnBW were selected as preferred bidder for UK offshore wind leases and bp completed formation of its US offshore wind partnership with Equinor. bp announced plans for the UK's largest blue hydrogen production facility in Teesside. Start of production from two new gas projects – Raven in Egypt and Satellite Cluster in India – was announced in April.