Norway’s Equinor on Thursday posted $12bn in profits for this year’s first quarter. This beat analyst forecasts as high production mostly offset lowered energy prices.

After tax, profits stand at $3.51bn. The company’s net operating income ended on $12.5bn, with a net income of $4.97bn. This remains down from last year’s first quarter, largely due to a drop in energy prices as countries recover from Russian supply withdrawal.

The majority state-owned oil and gas producer said in a statement that its strong earnings were a result of good operational performance and production growth. It produced a total of 2,130 thousand barrels of oil equivalent (mboe) per day for the first quarter, up from 2,106 mboe per day for the same period last year. The company attributed this growth primarily to an increase in new oil fields and wells in Norway and Brazil.

Equinor also replaced Russia’s Gazprom as Europe’s biggest oil and gas exporter last year. Its price for piped gas to Europe stood at $18.8 per MMBtu, with its oil prices coming in at $78.3 per barrel of crude, down 27% and 24% respectively, compared with the same period last year.

Its board of directors agreed an ordinary cash dividend of $0.30 per share, and an extraordinary dividend of $0.60 per share for the first quarter. Total capital distribution for this year is predicted at $17bn. This includes a share buy-back of $6bn and a second tranche of buy-backs of $1.67bn.

The company produced 524GWh of energy from renewable sources in the first quarter, only slightly up from the same period last year.

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By GlobalData

Anders Opedal, president and CEO of Equinor, said: “Equinor delivered strong earnings and cash flow across the business and remains a safe and reliable provider of energy to Europe.

“We progressed on our strategy, optimising our oil and gas portfolio by acquiring Suncor Energy in the UK and continuing with focused exploration,” he added.

Equinor joins other oil giants, including BP and Shell, in exceeding analyst predictions for profits. For Equinor, these stood at $11.2bn for the Norwegian company, according to Reuters. The continued high profits of oil giants in this quarter have been met with criticism from activist groups, after a record-shattering 2022 for the industry, coming in light of the global energy crisis.