British based energy giant British Petroleum has reported a 26% increase in profits for 2004 off the back of record oil prices and strong demand.

For the year the company achieved an income of $16.21 billion. Fourth quarter income increases matched those for the year with BP recording a 26.3% increase to $3.65 billion in its last quarter of 2004 compared to the previous year.

As a result of its financial fortune, which was above analysts forecasts, BP has increased its quarterly dividend payout by 26% to 8.5 cents.

However, on a negative note the company failed to balance its new source material finds to its annual pumping levels using the industry-standard SEC calculation basis. BP could only deliver an 89% ratio, meaning new reserve discoveries totaled less than the amount the company pumped during the year.

Commenting on the results BP chief executive Lord Browne said Over the past few years we have built a strong base for the Group with material assets and markets into which we are investing. We’re achieving the targets for growth we set ourselves, we’re improving quality and we’re maintaining financial strength.

Importantly, in spite of the significantly better than expected trading environment, we are maintaining a disciplined approach to the execution of our strategy and consequently making sure that excess free cash flows are appropriately distributed to shareholders.