BP said its first quarter pro forma result was US$4,717 million compared with $4,048 million a year ago, an increase of 17%. Replacement cost profit for the quarter was $4,170 million compared with $3,420 million a year ago.

The first quarter result includes a net exceptional and non-operating credit of $1,177 million compared with $285 million in the first quarter of 2003. This includes the exceptional gains from the sale of our investments in PetroChina and Sinopec. The first quarter trading environment was generally stronger than a year ago, with higher oil realisations, refining margins and petrochemicals margins, slightly reduced gas realizations and lower NGL and marketing margins.

Net cash inflow for the quarter was $3.8 billion compared with an inflow of $3.2 billion a year ago, reflecting higher cash flow from operating activities partly offset by higher acquisition spending. Net cash flow from operating activities was $7.7 billion compared with $6.0 billion a year ago.

The pro forma ratio of net debt to net debt plus equity was 22% at the end of the quarter.

Return on average capital employed for the quarter, on a pro forma basis, was 24%, the same as a year ago. The cash return for the quarter was 32% compared with 37% a year ago.

The quarterly dividend is 6.75 cents per share ($0.405 per ADS) compared with 6.25 cents per share a year ago, an increase of 8%. In sterling terms, the quarterly dividend is 3.807 pence per share compared with 3.947 pence per share a year ago, a decrease of 3.5%. The company repurchased for cancellation 155 million of its own shares during the quarter, at a cost of $1,249 million.

In a statement, group chief executive, Lord Browne, said:

“This has been another strong performance against the backdrop of a robust trading environment. We are on track against our targets of investing for growth, growing the dividend and utilizing surplus cash to fund a significant level of share buybacks. We are continuing our portfolio management actions in Petrochemicals and today announced that we intend to dispose of our Olefins and Derivatives business.

“At just over $32 per barrel (dated Brent), crude oil prices during the first quarter were the highest since the fourth quarter of 1990 (immediately prior to the first Gulf War) and $2.60 per barrel higher than in the fourth quarter of 2003. Prices have averaged around $32.91 so far in April (through close 23 April 2004). Strong oil demand growth, low inventories, a tight US gasoline market and concern about possible supply disruptions have kept crude prices supported, notwithstanding the continuing high levels of OPEC production. The same forces should underpin crude prices during the second quarter but a rebuilding of inventories closer to seasonal norms looks likely if OPEC does not make production cuts that more closely match the seasonal drop in oil product demand.”

“Refining margins in the first quarter strengthened relative to the fourth quarter 2003 in the face of declining product inventories, strong global oil demand growth and cold US weather. Margin gains were most pronounced in the US, where low gasoline inventories and specification changes raised concerns about supply during the coming driving season. Margins have begun the second quarter strongly, with low gasoline inventories and demand strength. Marketing margins are expected to reflect seasonal improvements although they continue to be impacted by high crude oil and product prices.”