LONDON BP PLC outlined plans to rebound from the Gulf of Mexico disaster as a smaller, safer company selling off almost half its U.S. refinery business and restored its dividend payment to shareholders as it unveiled strong fourth-quarter profits Tuesday.
But uncertainty over the final bill for the Gulf spill and criticism from some analysts that the company shunned a more drastic restructuring tempered the good news.
Casting a further shadow was a dispute at the London-based companys Russian subsidiary TNK-BP, which Chief Executive Bob Dudley acknowledged may cost BP financially to resolve.
Dudley painted 2011 as a year of recovery and consolidation for the company as he listed three priorities: improving safety, restoring trust and finding value growth for shareholders.
As anticipated, BP posted a full-year loss in 2010 its first in almost 20 years. High crude oil prices at the end of the year lifted fourth quarter profit by 30 percent to $5.6 billion. But that was not enough to wipe out the effects of the Gulf spill, resulting in the full-year loss of $3.7 billion, compared with a profit of $16.6 billion in 2009.
2010 will rightly be remembered for the tragic accident and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and it is clear that as a result BP is a company in transition, Dudley said in London. I am determined that we will emerge from this episode as a company that is safer, stronger, more sustainable, more trusted and also more valuable.
Among its first steps of a return to business, the company announced that it would pay a 7 cent per share, or $1.25 billion, dividend to shareholders in the fourth quarter. The company scrapped the first three quarterly payments last year amid political and public pressure to set aside funds to pay for the April 20 Macondo well blowout that killed 11 workers.
We believe now is the right time to resume payment of a dividend to our shareholders, said Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg.
We have chosen a prudent level that reflects the companys strong underlying financial and operating performance but also recognizes the need to fully meet our obligations in the Gulf of Mexico and to maintain financial flexibility.