BP's Murray Auchincloss is working hard to quell speculation that the company could become a takeover target despite multiple hallmarks of a business whose position has been compromised.

There are of course the circumstances under which Mr Auchincloss took on the temporary role of chief executive less than seven weeks ago following the abrupt departure of Bernard Looney after he admitted failing to fully disclose past romantic relationships with colleagues. Among opportunistic predators such shock exits are a sign of potential weakness.

This was quickly followed by news of two mega-mergers in the US oil and gas sector in what some have suggested could be a final wave of consolidation across the industry - a kind of "last hurrah" for the fossil fuel era.

READ MORE: BP: Climate strategy under scrutiny as Looney resigns

ExxonMobil announced in early October the $60 billion acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources and has since said that it remains on the hunt for further deals. Two weeks later Chevron said it would pay $54bn to acquire American rival Hess, which owns a share of a gigantic oil field off the coast of Guyana that is considered to be the most significant discovery that the industry has made in the last ten years. 

BP today reported underlying earnings of $3.3bn for the third quarter, missing market expectations of $4bn and down from $8.2bn a year earlier. The company's share price, which has trailed that of its rivals since the industry emerged from the Covid pandemic, is down by more than 4% as a result.

READ MORE: BP sees North Sea opportunities after posting $2.6bn profit

Mr Auchincloss said repeatedly today that he is not concerned about the takeover speculation, pointing instead to the "strong underlying performance" which included higher-than-expected operating profits from oil and gas production.

"Resilient Hydrocarbons", as this division is now known, is of course what BP is meant to be moving away from as part of its climate targets that were watered down earlier this year.

The company expects to pour some 60% of its investment into upstream production between now and 2030, much to the ire of environmentalists. But if, as the World Bank has warned, oil prices were to spike again BP will be in prime position to reap the rewards.