StockMarketWire.com - BP said it would start a $500 million share buyback programme in the second quarter after the oil major reported a rise in first-quarter profit and met its debt reduction target.

For the first quarter of the year, underlying replacement cost profit rose to $2.6 billion from $791 million year-on-year.

'This result was driven by an exceptional gas marketing and trading performance, significantly higher oil prices and higher refining margins,' the company said.

The company kept its dividend steady at 5.25 US cents per share.

The company achieved its net debt target after the sale of assets resulted in proceeds of $4.8 billion in the quarter.

Net debt was reduced by $5.6 billion to reach $33.3 billion at the end of the quarter.

Looking ahead, BP said it expected the $1.2 billion pre-tax annual Gulf of Mexico oil spill payment to result in a net cash flow deficit in Q2.

'[W]e intend to distribute 60% of surplus cash flow for 2021 through share buybacks, with the remaining 40% being used to further strengthen our balance sheet,' the company said.

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