BP Warns More Russian Sanctions May Hurt as Profit Rises

Jul 29, 2014 1:13 pm ET

(Updates with closing share price in eighth paragraph.)

July 29 (Bloomberg) -- BP Plc, the U.K. oil company with the single-biggest foreign investment in Russia, warned that more sanctions against the country could hurt its business.

BP, with a 20 percent stake in OAO Rosneft, stands to lose the most from further sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The European Union and the U.S. are acting to intensify punitive measures aimed at key sectors of the economy -- finance, defense and energy.

“Any future erosion of our relationship with Rosneft, or the impact of further economic sanctions, could adversely impact our business and strategic objectives in Russia, the level of our income, production and reserves, our investment in Rosneft and our reputation,” BP said in an earnings statement.

BP reported a 34 percent increase in second-quarter profit, beating analyst estimates, including $1 billion underlying net income from Rosneft. That compares with $218 million from the Russian company a year earlier. BP received a $690 million dividend from Rosneft last week and doesn’t expect this to be at risk next year. Its stake is worth $15 billion.

“To date, these sanctions have had no material adverse impact on BP or Ruhr Oel GmbH,” a joint refining venture between BP and Rosneft, it said. “However, BP will continue to keep this under review.”

EU governments agreed today in Brussels to bar Russian state-owned banks from selling shares or bonds in Europe and restricted the export of equipment to modernize the oil industry, a key prop for Russia’s economy, two EU officials told reporters.

Profit Rises

A Dutch court ruled yesterday in favor of former Yukos Oil Co. officials, ordering Russia to pay $50 billion for seizing what was once the country’s largest oil producer. The decision risks dragging Rosneft and natural gas exporter OAO Gazprom into extended legal wrangling. The state-run companies may be targeted because they were beneficiaries of expropriated Yukos assets.

“We are monitoring events in Russia,” Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley, who was re-elected to the Rosneft board in June, said at a media briefing in London. “Sanctions are a matter for governments to resolve through dialog and diplomacy.”

BP shares fell 2.5 percent to 484.25 pence at the close in London trading, the biggest drop in a year. That’s the lowest price since April 17.

New Projects

Earnings adjusted for one-time items and inventory changes rose to $3.6 billion from $2.7 billion a year earlier, the London-based company said in the statement. That beat the $3.4 billion average estimate of 13 analysts in a Bloomberg News survey. The quarterly dividend was unchanged from the previous three months at 9.75 cents a share.

While total energy production declined because of disposals, the company brought online projects with better returns, it said. U.S. output rose 28 percent in the quarter from a year earlier, boosted by new assets in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We are continuing to ramp up the major new projects that drive delivery of cash flow and are also now seeing benefits from our focus on operating with greater reliability and efficiency,” Dudley said in a statement. “This was another successful quarter, delivering both operational progress and robust cash flow.”

Five new projects started production this year, including three in deepwater in the Gulf of Mexico, and the CLOV project in Angola, which produced first oil in June. Two more projects are expected to start in 2014.

Lower Output

The end of BP’s Abu Dhabi concession in January together with divestments meant overall production was 6 percent lower at 2.1 million barrels of oil and gas a day. Underlying output, which strips out these factors, was 3 percent higher.

Rising production from higher-margin fields and increased processing from the newly modernized Whiting refinery in Indiana contributed to operating cash flow of $7.9 billion, with the total for the first half at $16.1 billion, BP said.

“These were a strong set of results,” said Anish Kapadia, an analyst at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. in London. “It was particularly encouraging to see increased oil production from the U.S. as well as a good contribution from Rosneft, putting them on track to meet the $30 billion to $31 billion target for cash flow for the year.”

Alaska Maintenance

BP said production is expected to be lower in the third quarter compared with the previous three months because of maintenance in Alaska and the Gulf. The explorer has the greatest scope among the oil majors to rein in operating costs, with potential savings of $1.4 billion a year, according to analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

Norway’s Statoil ASA last week reported a drop in profit on lower production because of maintenance and asset sales, while Spain’s Repsol SA said adjusted net income was 2.7 percent lower than a year earlier as unrest in North Africa curtailed output.

Total SA, Europe’s second-largest oil company, reports second-quarter earnings tomorrow, while Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil company, will report on July 31.

BP raised cost estimates for the 2010 Gulf oil spill to $43 billion from $42.7 billion for legal provisions.

--With assistance from Eduard Gismatullin in London.