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BP to restart buybacks after reaching debt target early

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relates to BP set to restart buybacks after hitting debt target early

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg

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BP Plc said it has already hit its target of $ 35 billion in net debt, reaching the threshold at which it said it could restart share buybacks about a year earlier than expected.

This news reflects an accelerating pace of asset sales and improved business performance, as BP’s business division capitalizes on dramatic developments in the energy markets. This marks a potential turning point after a tumultuous year for the industry, in which fuel sales and refining margins were hammered by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

So far this year, a “very strong” trade performance driven by trade, prices and “resilient operations” has driven borrowing down, the London-based oil giantsaid Tuesday. Having achieved its debt target, “BP has committed to return at least 60% of excess cash to shareholders through share buybacks.”

The move will be a boon to investors, many of whom had seen their counterpart Royal Dutch Shell Plc as being ahead of the game in returning cash to shareholders, having slightly increased its dividend just two quarters after its cut. BPcut its payments last August, a policy reversal after boosting it a few quarters earlier.

BP shares rose 3.4% to 299.75 pence at 9.46am in London, extending their gain this year to 18%.

“Given the share price position, we expect that over 60% of excess free cash flow will be used for buybacks,” said Oswald Clint, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. The energy company also made strong profits from trading in liquefied natural gas in the first quarter, he said.

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