Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Steady momentum for the oil and natural gas sector recovery could mean earnings improve for British supermajor BP, RBC Capital Markets said Monday.
"We expect improving earnings and cash generation to show through in early 2018 as BP captures higher commodity prices and widening crude spreads," RBC said in an emailed analysis.
The spread is the difference between various crude oil benchmarks. The difference between Brent, the global benchmark, and West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was about $3.40 per barrel in favor of Brent.
In its latest financial report, BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said last year was "one of the strongest years" in the company's recent history. Profits more than doubled for the company in 2017 and production was its highest since 2010.
BP's full-year profit for 2017 was $6.2 billion, compared with $2.6 billion the previous year. The fourth quarter profit was $2.1 billion, compared with $400 million year-over-year.
On production, the British company said its full-year output was 12 percent higher than in 2016 and its highest level since 2010. Exploration efforts, meanwhile, gave the company its best year in more than a decade with 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent discovered in 2017.
In early February, the company announced gas was being produced from its Atoll basin offshore Egypt, seven months ahead of schedule, less than two years after the initial discovery and 33 percent under the initial cost estimate.
The first phase of the project is yielding about 350 million cubic feet of natural gas and 10,000 barrels of an ultra-light product called condensate each day.
In its statement, the company said spending in the fourth quarter was $4.6 billion, about 2 percent higher than the same period in 2016. Total spending last year was $16.5 billion, a 1 percent decline from 2016. For the year, BP's capital expenditure should be in the range of $15 billion to $16 billion.
RBC said it revised its cash flow estimate, meanwhile, by 4 percent for this year. In its earnings statement, BP said cash flow last year, not counting what it paid out for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, was $24.1 billion, a 37 percent improvement from 2016.