Energy company BP reported yesterday that its first-quarter profit fell 26 percent in the wake of the sharp drop in oil prices, less than many analysts had feared. The London-based company said net income for the quarter was $2.6 billion, compared with $3.5 billion in the same period last year. Market expectations were for a drop of as much as 60 percent, however, and BP share rose 1.5 percent on the news in a lower market. Underlying replacement cost profit a measure that strips out fluctuations in the value of reserves was $2.6 billion compared with $3.2 billion for the same period in 2014. Chief Executive Robert Dudley said the results "reflect both this weaker environment and the actions we are taking in response." Speculation has swirled in the markets about whether BP may become a takeover target. Low oil prices tend to boost mergers and acquisitions in the industry Shell recently agreed to buy BG for 47 million pounds ($69.7 billion).