February 4, 2020 / 7:36 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-BP boosts dividend despite profit fall as CEO Dudley bows out

* Profit down 26% on weak oil, gas prices, but beats forecasts

* Completes $1.5 billion share buyback programme (Adds detail, graphics)

By Ron Bousso

LONDON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - BP on Tuesday raised its dividend and announced the completion of a $1.5 billion share buyback programme in a sign of confidence in its growing oil and gas business on the last day in office for Chief Executive Bob Dudley.

The shareholder boosts came as the London-based company reported a 26% drop in fourth-quarter profit which beat forecasts and $2.7 billion in charges.

"BP is performing well, with safe and reliable operations, continued strategic progress and strong cash delivery. This all supports our commitment to growing distributions to shareholders over the long term," Dudley said in a statement, a day before his successor Bernard Looney takes over.

Cash flow rose by more than 10% in 2019 to $25.8 billion despite lower commodity prices as a result of higher production, particularly in U.S. shale following the acquisition of BHP.

BP increased its dividend by 2.4% to 10.5 cents per share.

It reported $2.57 billion in fourth-quarter underlying replacement cost profit, its definition of net income, exceeding forecasts of $2.1 billion in a company-provided survey of analysts.

That was down from $3.5 billion a year earlier but up from $2.3 billion in the third quarter.

Reporting by Ron Bousso; editing by Jason Neely

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