BP could resume dividend payments next year: new boss

30th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

BP could resume dividends to shareholders next year, incoming chief executive Bob Dudley said on Thursday, three months after payments were suspended following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Dudley told the BBC that after the restructuring of the firm forced by the disaster -- which could ultimately cost it 32.2 billion dollars (23.6 billion euros) -- BP was now "slimmer, wiser, stronger."

"The board will get together and talk before the end of the year about restoring a dividend in some form in the first quarter," he said, one day before officially starting the job.

"It's obviously for the board to decide but right now, based on what I know and what I see happening in the performances of the businesses, I believe we will get there."

In late afternoon trade on Thursday, BP's share price advanced 2.86 percent on the London stock exchange which was up 0.55 percent. The shares have slumped more than 30 percent since the April explosion at the BP rig sparked the spill.

Dudley said the board was not yet sure of the level of the dividends but promised to make BP "a good compelling investment for shareholders."

The oil spill, the worst environmental disaster the United States has ever seen, dealt a major blow to BP's international reputation and Dudley admitted it was a "wake-up call" to the entire oil and gas industry.

But he expressed hope BP could restore its standing in the United States.

"If we meet our obligations, like we have been, then over time people will say -- this was a good corporate citizen to respond to an accident that has been a wake-up call to the entire oil and gas industry," Dudley told the BBC.

"If we share our learnings to ensure this doesn't happen again then maybe we can restore our reputation in the US.

"The US uses a lot of energy and we are the biggest energy producer in the US, so it's an important part of our portfolio globally."

Dudley takes over from Tony Hayward, who resigned in July after he was widely criticised over his handling of the oil spill.

BP scrapped the shareholder dividend in June, under heavy pressure from the US government to find billions of dollars in clean-up costs and compensation.

On Wednesday, Dudley launched a major shake-up in the wake of the Gulf oil disaster, creating a powerful new safety division and overhauling the group's structure.

BP will also conduct an assessment of how it motivates its staff in trying to improve safety and risk management, and will review how it manages third-party contractors.

© 2010 AFP

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