From across the pond, we've received new Big Oil news: It appears that BP (NYSE: BP ) -- Europe's second-largest energy company after Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A ) -- has chalked up one awfully solid quarter.
Net profits came to $8.05 billion for the period, up 83% from the $4.41 billion earned in the third quarter of 2007. The company's revenues increased by 45% to $104.83 billion, versus $72.84 billion a year earlier.
CFO Bryon Grote noted that, despite the effects of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and production interruptions in the company's Caspian fields, production was higher than in the third quarter of 2007. The result was partially attributable to the June start-up of production from the company's big Thunder Horse field in the Gulf of Mexico
Beyond the company's upstream success, its downstream profits improved by 70% over last year's comparable quarter. At the same time, its replacement cost profit, which excludes gains or losses related to fuel inventory price changes, increased by an impressive 148% to $10.03 billion.
Of course, all oil and gas producers will be affected in the next quarter by the severe decline in commodities prices that has occurred since July. Nevertheless, management expressed confidence in BP's ability to weather volatility, noting that unlike some of its peers, it hadn't entered into high-cost producing venues, such as tar sands plays. In fact, the company thinks that the current turmoil might just be opening up some opportunities for them.
During the past few years, BP has suffered its share of mishaps and problems, including a major explosion at a Texas refinery, a crude oil pipeline leak in Alaska, difficulties with its TNK-BP partnership in Russia, and events that forced Browne's abrupt departure from the company. It now appears, however, that most of those distractions have been corrected.
BP's results follow those of ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) , which were released last week. Other Big Oil companies still waiting in the wings to report include Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) , ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) , and Shell.
My sense, from having watched BP clean up its act and deal effectively with each of the maladies it has faced, is that the company now merits close attention from Fools who recognize that the rapid slide in energy commodities and share prices has created opportunities within the exploration and production sector.
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