Appointed a little over a year ago, chief executive Bernard Looney faces the difficult task of turning BP’s questionable Beyond Petroleum tagline from the early noughties into a reality.
His tenure is likely to be judged on whether the commitment to the transition away from fossil fuels went much beyond this marketing gimmick.
There is no question that oil and gas activities still fuel the business with an increase in BP’s first quarter earnings and cash flow almost entirely driven by the big recovery in commodity prices.
“BP faces a difficult challenge of keeping its balance sheet under control, investing for the future, and returning capital to shareholders who have come to expect generous payouts,” said AJ Bell’s Russ Mould.
“Hitting its net debt target a year earlier is a good start and this is allowing the company to resume share buybacks in the second quarter.
“However, the outlook on cash is less positive for the second quarter and longer term it feels like something has got to give if BP is truly to complete its ambitious transformation into a zero-carbon business.
“Investors may question whether BP is putting off difficult questions now rather than facing them full on and truly ‘transforming while performing’ as the company would have it.”