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BP share price down 4% today after rumours of lower earnings

Reuters UK

BP shares down on rumour guiding lower on earnings

Wed Jan 7, 2009 11:03am GMT

By Tom Bergin

LONDON, Jan 7 (Reuters) – Shares in Britain’s BP Plc (BP.L) fell 4 percent on Wednesday as the oil major was, yet again, dogged by rumours it told analysts earnings would be lower than expected.

Three dealers reported rumours that BP had guided analysts to lower their fourth-quarter earnings forecasts and one analyst saidBP had started to contact analysts on Tuesday, to discuss their forecasts.

BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams denied the rumours.

“We do not give guidance on our results,” she said.

Financial market rules in Europe and the U.S. forbid companies from divulging market-sensitive information, such as guidance on profits, to selected audiences.

Shortly after the end of each quarter, BP, like many other companies, calls analysts to ask their predictions for quarterly earnings, from which the company then compiles an average forecast.

BP has said in the past that it sometimes highlights positive or negative aspects to the quarter, which have been made public but which it feels analysts may have overlooked.

Williams declined to say if BP was having such conversations this time.

BP denies these conversations represent guiding analysts, but traders often take their cue from such comments, which are circulated to banks’ trading staff and selected clients in research notes.

In January 2008, BP’s shares dived on rumours, denied by the company, that it had guided analysts lower on last quarter, 2007, profits. The same happened ahead of BP’s third quarter 2007 earnings in October of that year.

The last quarter of 2008 is expected to mark a turnaround for the oil majors, which have consistently broken earnings records over the past four years, on the back of ever-higher oil prices.

However, Brent crude prices averaged $55.48 a barrel in the quarter, down 37 percent compared to the same period in 2007, according to BP data.

Refining margins in the U.S., where BP’s crude processing facilities are focussed, also fell sharply in the quarter, compared to the same period in 2007.

BP shares traded down 3.9 percent at 532-1/2 pence at 1054 GMT, underperforming a 1.2 percent drop in the DJ Stoxx European oil and gas sector index .SXEP.

(Additional reporting by Tyler Sitte in Frankfurt and Blaise Robinson in Paris; Editing by Andrew Callus and Hans Peters)


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