BP chief visits home of world's top sovereign wealth fund

7th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

BP's chief executive Tony Hayward was in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday amid speculation Britain's oil giant is seeking support from foreign sovereign wealth funds in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

"It is a private visit" to the capital of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, a BP official told AFP.

He gave no details on Hayward's stay in the home base of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), considered the world's largest sovereign wealth fund with assets of more than 600 billion dollars.

An ADIA spokesman, contacted by AFP, declined to comment on Hayward's meetings in luxury palaces from which journalists were barred access.

In London, a BP spokesman said on Tuesday that Hayward was visiting "our important partners" amid speculation it was seeking help to cope with the soaring spill costs in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Our chief executive is on a general series of visits to our important partners," he said.

BP is reportedly seeking the support of foreign sovereign wealth funds (SWF) in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and the resulting collapse in its share price to stave off possible takeover bids by rivals.

"It's obvious the Gulf sovereign funds are interested in BP," said Dubai-based analyst Ibrahim Khayat.

"It's an opportunity not to be missed, especially as the group's current financial difficulties do not put into question the strategic value of its assets around the world," he said.

"Traditionally, Middle East SWFs invest for the long term ... especially in developed markets and when stocks can be picked up at large discounts," said Saud Masud, head of research at the UBS financial services group in Dubai.

Hayward was in Baku on Tuesday where he reassured Azerbaijan of BP's commitment to energy projects in that country despite rising costs from the oil spill, now put at some three billion dollars.

BP has said it can cope with the soaring cost without asking existing shareholders for cash but the company has also indicated that it would welcome new shareholders.

In Saudi Arabia, the economic daily Al-Iqtissadiya said on Wednesday that Saudi investors were in London for direct negotiations with BP on a possible 10 to 15 percent share ownership.

The BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers, unleashing the worst environmental disaster in US history.

The company has 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 federal costs.

BP agreed last month to create a 20-billion-dollar fund for costs arising from the spill and is selling non-core assets to raise 10 billion dollars.

The head of Libya's National Oil Corporation said on Tuesday that BP was an "opportunity" for investors, after the oil major's shares fell in value by half since April.

"BP currently represents 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."

© 2010 AFP

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