BP chief executive 'on visits to important partners'

6th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

British oil giant BP said Tuesday that chief executive Tony Hayward was visiting "our important partners" amid speculation it was seeking help to cope with soaring spill costs in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Our chief executive is on a general series of visits to our important partners," a BP spokesman told AFP, declining to confirm reports he has gone on from a trip to Azerbaijan to visit Abu Dhabi.

The company is reportedly seeking the support of foreign sovereign wealth funds in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and the resulting collapse in the company's share price.

Reports say securing the support of sovereign wealth funds could stave off a possible takeover bid for BP from a major competitor such as Exxon, Shell or Total.

Earlier Tuesday on a visit to Baku, Hayward reassured Azerbaijan of his company's commitment to energy projects in the ex-Soviet republic despite rising costs from the Gulf of Mexico spill, now put at some three billion dollars.

Seeking to dampen speculation that BP may try to offload some of its assets in Azerbaijan to help cover its spiralling costs from the spill, Hayward said the company was dedicated to its projects in the Caspian Sea nation.

BP said in London earlier that it could cope with the soaring oil spill cost without asking existing shareholders for cash but also indicated that it would welcome new shareholders.

A company spokeswoman said "we are not issuing any new equity," denying weekend reports that BP was planning to sell new stock to a strategic investor.

"We welcome new shareholders ... and we welcome existing shareholders who want to take a bigger amount of shares."

The Times daily reported that the British government was working on crisis action in case the company could not cope with the costs of the oil spill.

"It is not clear how bad this will get but the government needs to be prepared for any eventuality," said a person familiar with the talks cited by The Times.

It added that British Prime Minister David Cameron and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne would discuss BP's future with US government officials in a trip to Washington later this month on July 20.

An insider also told the newspaper that the question had been raised as to whether, under extreme circumstances, the government should intervene to save BP with a taxpayer bailout.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman declined to comment on the report.

On Monday, the company said it had now spent about 3.12 billion dollars on the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid and US federal costs.

On Monday last week, it put the cost at 2.65 billion dollars.

Meanwhile, the head of Libya's National Oil Corporation said Tuesday that BP was an "opportunity" for investors, after the company's shares fell by half since April.

"BP currently represent an opportunity for any investor," NOC president Chokri Ghanem told AFP.

"It is a recommendation that could be worthwhile for Libya or any other country or investor," said Ghanem without specifying if the North African OPEC-member country could invest in BP.

Ghanem, who was being asked to comment on rumours that Libya would be interested in buying a stake in the troubled oil giant, said he was merely giving an "economist's point of view"

"This has nothing to do, by near or far, with decisions concerning Libyan investment," he said.

BP's share price has collapsed by more than 50 percent since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig it leased sank on April 22, two days after a blast that killed 11 workers.

"BP is a big company and will know how to overcome its difficulties very quickly," Ghanem added.

© 2010 AFP

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