BP posts record 2022 earnings to join Big Oil profit bonanza

Oil major BP on Tuesday reported record annual profits, more than doubling last year’s total as fossil fuel prices soared following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The British energy giant posted underlying replacement cost profit, used as a proxy for net profit, of $27.7 billion for 2022. That compared with $12.8 billion for the previous year.

Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected net profit of $27.6 billion for full-year 2022. BP said its previous annual profit record was $26.3 billion in 2008.

For the fourth quarter, BP posted net profit of $4.8 billion, narrowly beating analyst expectations of $4.7 billion.

BP announced a further $2.75 billion share buyback, which it expects to complete prior to announcing its first-quarter 2023 results in early May. It also boosted its dividend by 10% to 6.61 cents per ordinary share.

BP CEO Bernard Looney described the earnings as “a good set of results.”

“First of all, I hope you can see a company that is performing well, performing while transforming. We had our highest operations reliability in our history, we had the lowest production cost in 16 years so the business itself is running very well,” Looney told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Tuesday.

“Secondly, we’re leaning into our strategy today. We’re announcing up to $8 billion more investment into the energy transition this decade and up to $8 billion more into oil and gas in support of energy security and energy affordability this decade,” he added. “And thirdly, it’s about making sure we return to our shareholders.”

BP said fourth-quarter net debt was reduced to $21.4 billion, down from $30.6 billion when compared to the same period a year earlier.

Shares of BP rose over 4% during early morning deals in London.

The extraordinary scale of the oil and gas industry’s earnings has renewed criticism and sparked calls for higher taxes.

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The results see BP join Big Oil’s profit bonanza.

British rival Shell on Thursday posted its highest-ever annual profit of nearly $40 billion. Before that, U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil reported a $56 billion profit for 2022, marking a historic high for the Western oil industry. Chevron‘s 2022 profits came in at a record $36.5 billion.

The West’s largest fossil fuel companies are expected to have raked in combined profits of almost $200 billion for the year, according to Refinitiv data. France’s TotalEnergies is slated to report full-year earnings on Wednesday.

The extraordinary scale of the earnings has renewed criticism of the oil and gas industry and sparked calls for higher taxes.

“People across the country need look no further than their own front door – one of Britain’s own oil companies – which has been making records profit while so many Brits face hardship through no fault of their own,” said Jonathan Noronha-Gant, senior campaigner at advocacy group Global Witness.

“Implementing a windfall tax to aid those struggling financially, paired with a significant increase in renewable energy and home insulation, could be the start of the end to the damaging fossil fuel era, both for people and the planet. BP is richer because you’re poorer,” Noronha-Gant said.

John Moore, senior investment manager at RBC Brewin Dolphin, said BP’s record results underpinned the dividend increase and additional share buybacks.

“It’s fair to say that following the period covered by these results the oil price has weakened, while BP is also emphasising its investment in renewables and its commitment to changing how the company operates,” Moore said.

“But, even allowing for these factors, there will inevitably be a backlash against today’s results in the current climate. They will only add to calls for political intervention at some point in the near future.”

‘Energy trilemma’

In recent quarters, Big Oil executives have sought to defend their rising profits and said the significant disruption to global energy markets due to the war in Ukraine has reaffirmed the importance of solving “the energy trilemma.”

According to a statement to investors from BP’s Looney late last year, this refers to “secure, affordable and lower carbon energy.”

BP, which in 2020 set out its ambition to become a net zero company “by 2050 or sooner,” recently predicted that oil and gas would become a dramatically smaller part of the global energy mix by the middle of the century.

In its latest annual energy outlook, published on Jan. 30, the company said it sees the share of fossil fuels as a primary energy source falling from 80% in 2019 to between 55% and 20% by 2050. The share of renewables in primary energy, meanwhile, was projected to grow from 10% to between 35% and 65% over the same time period.

The wide range of outcomes reflects several possible paths for the energy transition. But in each of BP’s three scenarios, the pace with which renewables enter the global energy system is “quicker than any previous fuel in history,” the report said.

— CNBC’s Catherine Clifford contributed to this report.

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