Oil giant BP said today that first-quarter profits slid 62% after oil prices slumped from last summer's record level.
The decline to 2.39 billion US dollars (£1.64 billion) in the first three months of this year came as global oil prices dived below 50 US dollars a barrel, compared with the peak of 147 US dollars in July.
BP, which last year reported record annual profits of 25.6 billion US dollars (£18.1 billion), said profits more than halved at its exploration and production division, to 4.32 billion US dollars (£2.96 billion).
A year ago, BP and rival Royal Dutch Shell reported Q1 results on the same day and fuelled motorists' anger over rising petrol prices by reporting a combined surplus of more than £7 billion.
Today's update from BP was still stronger than market expectations, with the profit figure excluding one-off items coming in at 2.58 billion US dollars (£1.76 billion) - stronger than the 2.23 billion US dollars (£1.53 billion) forecast in the City.
There was further cheer for shareholders as BP announced a 4% increase in the company's dividend payment. In sterling terms, the increase is 40%.
Analysts have expressed concern in recent months that, with oil prices falling, the company may be forced to stall dividend growth.
The better-than-expected results and 4% dividend growth meant BP shares opened in positive territory in a depressed wider market.
The group has shown signs of operational improvements in refining while in the exploration and production division output was 2% higher than a year ago.
It said this reflected a ramp-up in production from major projects started in 2008, although it warned that the actual rate of growth will depend on factors such as oil prices and their impact on Opec quota restrictions.
BP has also boosted efficiency after chief executive Tony Hayward's appointment in 2007. BP shed 3,000 staff in 2008 and expects to axe more than the 5,000 posts originally planned by the middle of this year.