Full year and fourth quarter numbers from oil major and Shares pick for 2016 BP (BP.) make for ugly reading and the shares are down 7% to 341p in response.

At a headline level the 2015 loss of $6.5 billion is its biggest loss in at least 20 years as heavy write-downs and restructuring charges weigh on the P&L. Underlying profits of $196 million for the fourth quarter were down from $2.2 billion for the same period in 2014 and significantly worse than the $730 million pencilled in by analysts.

Ongoing liabilities relating to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill are a factor but oil prices are the main culprit. In the fourth quarter of 2014 Brent averaged $77 per barrel against just $44 for the final three months of 2015.

Investors looking for some crumbs of comfort could at least point to an unchanged dividend of 10 cents for the fourth quarter with chief executive Bob Dudley underling a commitment to the payout. With gearing already above 20%, the question for shareholders is how long this is viable if oil remains at less than $50 per barrel.

Issue Date: 02 Feb 2016