LONDON — BP PLC posted Tuesday a 72% drop in profit for the fourth quarter as its oil and gas production continued to fall and it agreed to pay billions of dollars in fines to the U.S. government, a performance that analysts said showed the company is still struggling to recover from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The results, which come as the company faces the start of a trial on Feb. 25 that will determine whether it faces billions of dollars more in civil penalties for the spill, underscore how BP's promised turnaround from the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico almost three years ago is proving elusive.
BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said the company passed many milestones in 2012, including selling assets and starting up new projects, which have laid a solid foundation for growth.
"We will continue to see the impact of this reshaping work in our reporting results in 2013. By 2014, I expect the underlying financial momentum to be strongly evident," Mr. Dudley said.
BP said it started up five major new oil and gas projects last year and expects to bring four more—in Angola, Australia, the Gulf of Mexico and Azerbaijan—into production by the end of this year.
However, the company's total oil and gas production still fell by 7% to 2.29 million barrels of oil equivalent a day in 2012 and is expected to fall again 2013, mainly as a result of the sale of oil-producing assets to cover the cost of the Gulf spill.
Excluding one-off gains and losses from asset sales or fines, BP's profit was above expectations, but its operating performance was still bumping along the bottom, analysts said.
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