"BP’s return to profit last quarter is a strong, above-expectations performance by the company still struggling to repair its reputation following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
"With dividends suspended following the disaster, BP is keen to paint a positive picture for its shareholders. Progressing the sale of production assets towards its target of around £20 billion will certainly beef up the balance sheet.
"Given the fact that CEO Bob Dudley recently said that the spill had ‘threatened the very future’ of the company, these results are a sign that BP has come out of intensive care and retains significant underlying strength, not least its ability to generate cash.
"It is impossible to hide the impact of an enormous bill attached to the disaster – with $7.7 billion more provision this quarter taking the total to almost $40 billion. There are few businesses in the world that could withstand this charge, but BP is one of them.
"The next milestone for BP will be the results of the US federal investigations into the disaster, due in January. BP will be expecting to be found negligent rather than grossly negligent – with a massive difference in financial penalties dependent on the decision. The reports also look likely to implicate Halliburton and Transocean, the contractors on the well, and this would give BP the confidence to seek massive compensation from these companies that could run into billions of dollars."