Oil giant BP has announced its financial results for the first quarter of 2023, which include a total profit of $8.2bn. This marks a significant increase over the $20.4bn loss the company sustained in the first quarter of 2022.

While the quarterly profits were slightly lower than those recorded in the final quarter of 2022, which reached $10.8bn, many of the company’s underlying financial figures seem encouraging for investors. The dividend of each BP share remained steady between the end of 2022 and the March quarter of 2023, at $0.066 per share, an improvement over the dividend of $0.055 reported in the first quarter of 2022.

Similarly, the company’s net debt remained largely stable, falling only slightly from $21.4bn in the final quarter of last year to $21.2bn by the end of the first quarter of this year.

The announcement is the latest in a series of strong financial performances from the company, that have seen BP exceed many expectations. The company’s 2022 end-of-year underlying profit reached $27.6bn, more than the $22bn that analysts at Motley Fool predicted in July 2022. The same publication estimated that BP’s profits would fall by around 40% to $13bn by 2024, but BP is on course to more than double that by the end of this year.

Growing criticism

“This has been a quarter of strong performance and strategic delivery as we continue to focus on safe and reliable operations,” said BP CEO Bernard Looney. “Momentum continues to build across our integrated energy company strategy, with the start-up of [Gulf of Mexico drilling program] Mad Dog Phase 2, our agreement to acquire [fuelling station] TravelCenters of America and progress towards hydrogen and CCS projects in the UK.

“And importantly we continue to deliver for shareholders, through disciplined investment, lowering net debt and growing distributions.”

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By GlobalData

Despite these strong performances, BP has come under increasing pressure for its spiralling profits at a time where many homes in the UK, where the company is headquartered, are struggling to pay their heating bills.

In December, the Guardian reported that around three million houses in the UK would be unable to pay for heating during the winter months, as part of the country’s ongoing cost of living crisis, and BP’s latest results make clear the stark contrast between the company’s strong financial position and vulnerabilities of many in the UK.

The company itself has also come under fire from a number of its backers. Most notably, activist investor group Follow This and a coalition of UK pension funds called for BP to improve its environmental performance at last week’s annual general meeting. The groups, operating separately, called for BP to commit to the climate targets laid out in the Paris Agreement. They also pushed for the reappointment of Helge Lund as BP chair.