BP confirmed an expected return to paying dividends, which it cut at the height of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last summer, and said it planned to sell two refineries and refocus on oil and gas production.

The news could be overshadowed by a court case later on Tuesday at which the company's oligarch partners in TNK-BP will seek an injunction to block BP's planned Arctic exploration joint venture with Russian state-controlled Rosneft.

BP said on Tuesday it would pay a fourth quarter dividend of 7 cents per share and 42 cents per American Depositary Share -- in line with analysts' expectations.

The company said it would sell two refineries in the U.S. -- halving its capacity there -- and invest more in oil and gas exploration.

However, the company also flagged that the pain from the oil spill continued to flow, adding another $1 billion to its earlier $40 billion estimate of the total bill. Analysts had recently started to cut their own estimates of the oil spill bill.

BP said fourth-quarter Replacement Cost (RC) net income was $4.61 billion, as a big rise in oil prices outweighed a 9 percent drop in oil and gas production.

Excluding one-off items of $250 million, RC net income came in at $4.36 billion, behind the $5.09 billion average forecast given by nine analysts polled by Reuters.

RC net income excludes gains or losses related to changes in the value of oil inventories and as such is comparable with U.S. net income.

BP said the weaker than expected results were partly due to a higher than expected tax rate.