British oil company BP have announced quarterly profits fell the equivalent of 20% from a year ago, after it sold assets in preparation for what could be its biggest oil spill payout when the case comes to trial later this month.
Once the world No. 2 but now the smallest of the four "oil majors" by market value, announced replacement cost profit, which strips out the effect of oil price movements, of $17.6 billion in 2012 - down from $21.7 billion a year earlier.
It comes days after a US court approved a record $4 billion criminal fine against BP over the fatal Gulf of Mexico disaster.
More billions could flow out of the business this year, either via a settlement with U.S. authorities, or as a result of a civil penalties trial that is due to begin on February 25.
BP beat expectations in its fourth-quarter earnings, however, posting underlying profits of $4 billion - down from $5 billion in the same period of 2011 but significantly ahead of consensus forecast of $3.3 billion.
The company's fourth quarter earnings were affected by the sale of its 50pc stake in Russian joint venture TNK-BP, agreed in October in return for $27 billion in cash and Rosneft shares. This meant it was able to book just 21 days' income from the venture for the quarter.
Moving through 2013, BP are looking to deliver further operational milestones and remain on track for delivery of a ten-point strategic plan, which includes a target for operating cash flow growth, by 2014.
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