As will be the case with other members of Big Oil, Europe's second-largest oil company, BP
In the latter area, BP turned in a yeoman's performance. In fact, the company apparently has already met its $2 billion cost-reduction target for this year, and maintains that it could reach up to $3 billion in reductions before year end. And CEO Tony Hayward has promised "plenty more" savings in 2010 as costs continue to recede.
Nevertheless, in the most recent quarter, the company was hit -- as the other majors will be -- by a tough combination of reduced oil and gas prices on the one hand and skimpy refinery margins on the other. The result was a 53% slide in net income to $4.39 billion, from $9.36 billion a year ago.
All was not lost, however, since BP not only beat analyst estimates but bested its results for the initial quarter of 2009, when it earned just $2.56 billion. For the most recent quarter, the company's replacement cost profit, which backs out the effects of inventory holdings, was $3.14 billion, versus $6.75 billion a year earlier.
So now, with the reporting ice for the integrated companies having been broken, ConocoPhillips
Along with matching BP's cost cutting, it'll be a tough slog for the other companies to measure up to its production performance. For the quarter, the company increased its oil and gas output by more than 4% above the comparable quarter a year ago, partly attributable to the start-up of production from its Thunder Horse field in the Gulf of Mexico. The company was also busy in other parts of the world, making its eighteenth discovery in a single block offshore Angola.
But with all these positives, Mr. Hayward was hardly giddy. In fact, he noted, "We see little evidence of any growth in demand and expect the recovery to be long and drawn-out."
So, should you buy BP or any of its peers? That, it seems to me, depends on your time frame. If you have at least two years to squirrel away some shares, you'd probably be wise to do so. My favorites continue to be Exxon and, yes, BP.
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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't have financial interests in any of the companies listed above. He does welcome your questions or comments. Total SA is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.