UK oil leviathan BP today announced its first dividend hike since it resumed payouts a year ago, after revealing profits had soared in the fourth quarter of 2011.
BP - which is still dealing with the fallout from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 - said in its update that replacement cost profit had jumped to $7.6bn, up from $4.6bn a year ago.
For the full year the group made a replacement cost profit of £23.9bn, compared to a loss of $4.9bn in 2010 when it paid out billions to cover the cost of the spill.
The group, which faces a legal trial with contractor Halliburton in the next few weeks, also hiked its dividend by 14% to 8 cents per share for Q4 2011.
Delivering the update, chief executive Bob Dudley - who took over from Tony Hayward in the wake of the spill disaster - said 2012 will be a year of increasing investment and milestones for the group.
"As we move through 2013 and 2014, we expect financial momentum will build as we complete payments into the Gulf of Mexico Trust Fund, restore high-value production and bring new projects on stream," he said.
BP has so far set aside $20bn for potential damages claims. The offshore spill was the worst in US history, while the blast at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers.
The company has been boosted by the high oil price - currently up at around $110 per barrel - and Dudley said the price was feeding through into underlying cash flow.
BP said operating cashflow was $22bn in 2011 - more than 60% higher than in 2010 - and with the higher oil price, the company expects net cash flow in 2014, in a $100 oil price environment, to be around 50% higher than in 2011.
BP said half of the additional cash is expected to be used for re-investment and half for other purposes including increased shareholder distributions.
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