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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 17:40 GMT
Higher safety costs hit BP profit
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BP was attacked over its safety standards last month
BP's latest profits have fallen 12% after it was hit by the declining price of oil and increased safety spending.

The oil giant made a profit of $3.9bn (2bn) in the last three months of 2006, down from $4.4bn a year earlier.

BP's higher safety spending comes after criticism into its operating standards in the US following a fatal explosion at its Texas City refinery in 2005.

For 2006 as a whole, BP's profits rose 15% to $22.3bn, lifted by higher oil prices in the first half of the year.

'Operational issues'

"We remain committed to addressing the recent operational issues while executing our strategy with discipline and focus," said BP's outgoing chief executive Lord Browne.

BP must be relieved that along with these numbers 2006 can finally be consigned to history
Analyst Richard Hunter

BP announced last month that Lord Browne would be retiring at the end of July, 18 months earlier than originally planned.

He is being replaced by Tony Hayward, who is currently head of exploration and production at BP.

BP's results are calculated on the basis of replacement cost, which reflects the current cost of supplies and is widely seen as the best measure of an oil firm's underlying performance.

BP chief executive Lord Browne
Lord Browne has led BP for 11 years

Analyst Richard Hunter of Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers said the decline in profits was expected.

"BP must be relieved that along with these numbers 2006 can finally be consigned to history," he said.

"The market will now hope that the departure of Lord Browne will enable a line to be drawn in the sand, so that the company can move forward."

Looking ahead, BP cautioned that it expects oil production to fall slightly in 2007.

It forecasts that it will produce between 3.8 and 3.9 million barrels of oil per day this year, compared with 3.93 million in 2006.

BP's shares closed 1.2% lower, having been 2% down in earlier trade.

US-wide problems

The 2005 explosion at BP's Texas City refinery killed 15 people and injured 180.

The damage caused by the 2005 blast at BP's Texas City refinery
The Texas City blast caused huge damage

Last month's independent report into the blast, led by former US Secretary of State James A Baker, found that while BP emphasised personal safety, it was weak on process safety.

The report said the problem existed at all five of BP's US refineries.

BP said it would implement the report's recommendations, adding it had taken significant steps to improve safety.

The firm has also faced criticism for leaks last year at its Alaskan operations.


SEE ALSO
Refinery-blast report savages BP
16 Jan 07 |  Business
BP's Browne to stand down in July
12 Jan 07 |  Business
BP manager criticises leadership
18 Dec 06 |  Business
BP attacked over safety standards
22 Oct 06 |  Business
Profile: Lord Browne
12 Jan 07 |  Business
Tony Hayward - BP's new boss
12 Jan 07 |  Business

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