British oil giant BP has posted a profit of $4.7bn for the first quarter of 2021 compared with a net loss of $4.4bn a year ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic dented oil demand and prices.

In the first three months of the year, the company’s underlying replacement cost profit, used as a proxy for net profit, surged to $2.6bn, from $791m in the first quarter of 2020.

In its earnings statement, BP said the result was driven by “exceptional” gas marketing and trading performance, “significantly” higher oil prices and stronger refining margins.

BP achieved its target of slashing net debt to $35bn, which fell $5.6bn to reach $33.3bn by the end of the first quarter.

The reduction in debt was supported by $4.8bn worth of disposals and higher oil prices.

BP noted that it plans to recommence share buybacks at a cost of around $500m in the second quarter.

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By GlobalData

Commenting on the performance, BP CEO Bernard Looney said: “With the acceleration of divestment proceeds, together with strong business performance and the recovery in the price environment, we generated strong cash flow and delivered on our net debt target around a year early.

“We are commencing share buybacks in the second quarter which, alongside our resilient dividend, support the growth in distributions to shareholders.

“And at the same time, we’ve delivered disciplined strategic progress right across bp – including building a high-quality offshore wind business, making great strides in our electrification agenda and setting ourselves up for further growth in the Gulf of Mexico.”