BP has turned the corner in its recovery from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the British oil major said on Tuesday, predicting production growth and an almost 50 percent increase in planned divestments to $45 billion.

Management said it expected improved cashflow would, in time, enable the group to pay investors higher dividends and restart a program of share buybacks.

However, the company also reported lower underlying third-quarter profits as a fall in production after it sold fields to pay for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill outweighed the benefits of higher oil prices.

BP said it made a replacement cost (RC) net profit of $5.14 billion in the quarter, up from $1.85 billion in the same period last year when the group took a large charge related to the oil spill.

As well as suffering the impact of a shrunken production base, BP's oil and gas output has been diminished by an overhaul of its facilities as the company seeks to improve safety.

Platforms are routinely shut to complete repairs or conduct maintenance but twice as many facilities had been closed in the third quarter as usual, a spokesman said.

BP said the increased level of maintenance turnarounds had now come to an end.

October 2011 had marked a turning point in the company's oil and gas output, BP said in a statement.

Stripping out such one-offs, the result fell 3.7 percent to $5.33 billion, ahead of an average forecast of $5.03 billion given in a Reuters poll of nine analysts.

RC profit strips out unrealized gains and losses related to changes in the value of fuel inventories, and, as such, is comparable with net income under U.S. accounting rules.

(Reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Greg Mahlich)