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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
'Strong global demand' boosts BP
BP sales and profits

Oil giant BP has thanked "strong global demand" for another set of sharply increased profits.

During the third quarter of this year, the company's pro-forma result - which approximates to net profits - was $3.9bn (2.1bn), up 43% year on year.

High crude prices have helped all oil companies, but BP insisted that the crucial element was a healthy market.

Expensive crude is not an automatic blessing for BP, which relies on refining and marketing.

But the continuing global thirst for products such as petrol and diesel has boosted BP's refinery profit margins; earnings in its marketing business were up 89% year on year.

Upstream upside

Nonethless, the company has made efforts to expand its crude output this year.

Production at its upstream exploration division rose 11% year on year in the third quarter, boosted largely by output from its recently-acquired TNK-BP Russian venture.

BP petrol station
The global thirst for petrol and other oil products shows no sign of slowing
Generally, production outside Russia commands a higher margin, but fortunes there were battered by a series of Caribbean hurricanes and tricky conditions in the North Sea,

During the quarter, Brent crude oil averaged $41.54 per barrel, up $6 on the previous quarter. BP chairman Lord Browne warned, however, that these highs were unlikely to be sustained, pointing out that Europe's economy was sluggish, and China's starting to ease.

"Oil prices are considered to have an approximate support level of $30 per barrel for at least the medium term, with chances of spiking above this level," he said.

BP shares ended the day down 6.5 pence, or 1.2%, at 531p.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why BP's profits have been boosted



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