LONDON: British oil major BP on Tuesday reported a 62-percent slide in first-quarter net profits to 2.387 billion dollars (1.834 billion euros), as the price of crude halved.

The data excludes changes in the value of oil held in stock, a key measure for the industry, and compared to net profit totalling 6.231 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2008.

Production for the quarter rose 2.6 percent to 4.016 billion barrels of oil and gas, compared to a year earlier, BP added in an earnings statement.

BP saw its profits plunge as the price of crude oil tumbled from more than 100 dollars a barrel in the first quarter of 2008 to below 50 dollars a year later as the global economic slump sharply reduced demand for energy.

BP on Tuesday said group sales slumped by 46 percent to 47.296 billion dollars in the first quarter.

"Oil prices are expected to remain low and our customers are facing tough business conditions," BP chief executive Tony Hayward said in a note to BP staff cited by Dow Jones Newswires. Hayward provided no comment in the earnings statement.

"We need rapidly to bring our costs to a level that is compatible with a 50-dollar (a barrel) world," Hayward added.

Crude oil prices that are traded in London and New York have crumbled from record high levels of more than 147 dollars reached last July.

In reaction to BP's results, the energy giant's share price was down 0.57 percent to 480.5 pence on London's FTSE 100 index, which was down 2.32 percent to 4,070.13 points.

Peter Hutton, analyst at NCB stockbrokers, described BP's results as "a good set of numbers... despite the decline in the oil price."

He added: "BP shares have done well leading in to (the) results, up 8.5 percent in the last week and we think (they) should show some further outperformance against the market today, before eyes move to Shell tomorrow, where we see more risk of a stumble."

BP's Anglo-Dutch rival Royal Dutch Shell publishes its first quarter results on Wednesday.

Meanwhile at BP, where Hayward has been in charge since 2007, more than 5,000 jobs are being slashed in a bid to reduce costs.

In February, the company was forced to pay 179 million dollars to settle a federal lawsuit over pollution at its Texas City plant, the site of a deadly explosion in 2005.