London-based BP reported its underlying replacement cost profit, which excludes one-time items and fluctuations in the value of inventories, was down from USD 3.3 billion in the previous quarter.

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It brought in USD 13.8 billion for all of last year, a huge drop from the USD 27.7 billion it earned in 2022, when Russia’s war in Ukraine sent oil and natural gas prices surging. Those prices drove inflation and contributed to a cost-of-living crisis, drawing outrage from consumers facing higher utility bills while energy companies saw explosive growth in their bottom lines.

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Energy prices have since fallen as a weak global economy holds back demand for fossil fuels to power cars, planes, factories and more.

Despite the drop in annual earnings, BP kept its dividend steady and said it would buy back USD 1.75 billion in shares as well as commit to USD 3.5 billion in additional share buy backs for first half of this year. The company’s stock rose 5.75 per cent in morning trading.

“Looking back, 2023 was a year of strong operational performance with real momentum in delivery right across the business,” CEO Murray Auchincloss said in a statement. “We are confident in our strategy, on delivering as a simpler, more focused and higher-value company.”

It’s the first earnings report since Auchincloss permanently got the top job last month. A former BP chief financial officer, Auchincloss had served as interim chief executive since Bernard Looney resigned in September after it emerged that Looney had failed to disclose to the board past relationships with company colleagues.

Environmentalists and other groups said energy giants like BP are prioritizing shareholders over fighting climate change.

“It’s clear that BP and other fossil-fuel giants can’t be trusted to drive the green transition: they will always prioritise their shareholders over the needs of the economy and the planet,” said Joseph Evans, researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research. (AP) NPK NPK

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