* BP could sign off on three more projects this year -CEO
* Q2 earnings $120 mln below analysts’ expectations
* Close to drawing a line under Deepwater Horizon liabilities (Recasts, add CEO comment, new projects, context, updates share price)
By Karolin Schaps
LONDON, July 26 (Reuters) - BP will forge ahead with at least three more new projects this year, its CEO said, despite the British oil major reporting a 45 percent drop in second-quarter earnings that prompted a cut in its 2016 investment budget to below $17 billion.
Tuesday’s results missed expectations, with analysts surprised by higher corporate charges, including administrative costs relating to Gulf of Mexico oil spill liabilities, and a lower contribution from BP’s stake in Russian oil producer Rosneft.
Rivals Shell, Statoil, Total and Eni also report second-quarter numbers this week, sharpening the focus on Tuesday’s drop in crude oil prices towards $44 a barrel, well short of the $60 previously cited as the level at which oil majors can break even.
Though BP chief Bob Dudley acknowledged that the global oil glut’s impact on refining margins and revenue continues to make for a challenging environment, he said that capital expenditure plans have been helped by a drop in associated costs.
“We’re going to choose our projects really carefully and the cost reductions and re-engineering of the projects has really brought them down to what I think is a very attractive (price range),” Dudley told Reuters.
Dudley said that BP could make another three final investment decisions this year, having already signed off on the expansion of its Tangguh liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Indonesia and the Atoll offshore gas project in Egypt.
A gas project in India, the second phase of the Mad Dog deepwater oil field in the Gulf of Mexico and a Trinidad project could all get the green light, he said.
BP’s projects pipeline is expected to add 500,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day by the end of 2017, with a further 300,000 bpd by the end of the decade.
Shares in the company fell 2.5 percent to 429 pence by 1128 GMT, but RBC Capital Markets analyst Biraj Borkhataria said: “We think continued cost and capex deflation reads positively for the sector.”
Second-quarter underlying replacement cost profit, BP’s most-watched profit measure, was $720 million, down from $1.3 billion in the same period last year and $120 million below an analyst consensus provided by the company.
BP’s refining margins hit a six-year low for the second quarter and the company said they would remain under significant pressure in the coming months.
It continues to reduce costs and now expects full-year capital expenditure to come in below the previous target of $17 billion target, saying that its 2017 investments could drop to as low as $15 billion if crude prices remain weak.
“I don’t think BP should go below that because then you start to take away from important growth,” Dudley said.
Total costs for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, which killed 11 workers, has reached $62 billion but the majority of claims have now been settled.
BP maintained its quarterly dividend at 10 cents a share, reassuring investors in a sector valued for its consistent payouts.
Editing by David Goodman