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Financial Times: UK companies diary: Oil majors set to suffer

Published: October 23 2006 03:00 | Last updated: October 23 2006 03:00

TUESDAY

*BP reports third-quarter figures ahead of rival Royal Dutch Shell later this week, with underlying earningsfor both likely to be down from the second quarter. The price of oil fell sharplyduring the three-month period and refining margins were squeezed, puttingpressure on both the upstream and downstream sides of BP and Shell, which reports on Thursday.

However, the figures for BP are generally expected to be worse than those for Shell. BP’s third-quarter earnings will be lower than in the same period of last year, according to Fadel Gheit, of Oppenheimer in New York, while Shell’s could be higher.

There are two main reasons for this. First, the different mix of the businesses: Shell is relatively stronger in marketingproducts and so is lessinfluenced by changes inthe oil price. Second, thereis the effect of the partial shutdown of production at BP’s Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska following the discovery of an oil leak from acorroded pipe. That cost BP production from August, roughly halfway throughthe quarter. Earlier this month, BP said it thoughtits total production in the third quarter had beenlower than in the thirdquarter of 2005.

However, Shell has also been suffering production problems, with output from its Nigerian fields disrupted by insurgent attacks.

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