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BP reports US$5.7 billion loss in 2020

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As reported by Reuters, BP has reported a US$5.7 billion loss in 2020, its first in a decade, as the pandemic took a heavy toll on oil demand, with fuel consumption continuing to slide so far this year amid global travel restrictions.

For 4Q20, BP reported a profit of US$115 million, falling short of analysts’ forecasts due to weak oil and gas sales and subdued trading, it said on Tuesday.

“These results reflect a truly tough quarter,” Chief Financial Officer Murray Auchincloss said in a statement.

“We expect renewed COVID-19 restrictions to have a greater impact on product demand, with January retail volumes down by around 20% year on year, compared with a decline of 11% in the fourth quarter,” BP said.

Oil demand is nevertheless expected to recover in 2021, the company said.

Tighter global natural gas markets are expected to further support profits, it said, although it saw coronavirus-related restrictions weighing on refined products demand in the first quarter.

Adjusted profit at BP’s downstream - or refining and marketing - business in 4Q20 collapsed to US$126 million, less than a tenth of what it was a year earlier.

BP’s shares have lost over 40% of their value over the past year and remain near 25-year lows, battered by concerns over oil demand due to the pandemic as well as investor doubts over BP’s ability to successfully carry out its an ambitious plan to shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

BP’s overall 4Q20 underlying replacement cost profit, its definition of net income, of US$115 million fell short of the US$360 million seen in a company-provided poll of analysts.

That compared with an US$86 million profit in the third quarter and a profit of US$2.6 billion a year earlier.

For the year, BP reported an underlying loss of US$5.69 billion, compared with a profit of US$10 billion in 2019.

BP’s debt pile of US$39 billion is expected to rise in the first half of this year as it continues to struggle with a weak business environment, but the company said it remained on track to reduce it to US$35 billion by early 2021.

At that debt level, BP plans to start share buybacks.

BP’s dividend remained at 5.25 cents per share.

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