BP said today that "no final decision" had been taken over management changes and loss provisions following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
It had been thought that the exit of embattled BP boss Tony Hayward would be finalised at a board meeting in London today, with a formal announcement on his future expected soon after.
Last night a US government official all but confirmed that the chief executive was on his way out, saying senior BP figures had briefed late last week of a change of leadership.
Throughout the weekend, Mr Hayward was reported to be in discussion with senior management over his severance package.
It is believed that the terms of his employment entitles him to a payout of at least £1m (€1.2m). The Daily Telegraph reported today that his pension pot could be as much as £10.8m (€12.9m).
Yesterday, a senior US official told the Associated Press that BP’s chief executive was in the process of being replaced.
A spokesman for BP maintained that Mr Hayward continued to have the “full support of the board and senior management” and that the company would not comment on “speculation”.
But it is now widely expected that Mr Hayward – the man who has soaked up much of the criticism over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill – will step down, with a statement expected some time today.
Bob Dudley, currently BP managing director, is tipped to be his successor.
BP was quick to stress Mr Dudley’s links to the American south when he took over day-to-day running of the clean-up operation.
Mr Hayward himself noted that “having grown up in Mississippi, Bob has a deep appreciation and affinity for the Gulf Coast”.
The potential elevation of an American to the post of chief executive could take some of the venom out of attacks from US politicians over BP’s handling of the disaster.
The extent of the damage to BP’s balance sheet caused by the Gulf of Mexico crisis will be revealed tomorrow when it posts its latest results.
It is believed that the massive compensation and clean-up costs associated with the slick is likely to have plunged BP into the red for the first time since 1992.
By that time, the fate of Mr Hayward is likely to be known.
The chief executive – a BP employee for 28 years – has been repeatedly singled out for attack over his handling of the Gulf of Mexico spill.
He angered Washington early on in the disaster by expressing a wish to have his “life back”. Further gaffes including being seen yachting at the height of the crisis, further alienated him from US political and popular opinion.
Last month he faced a barrage of criticism in front of a fired-up Senate committee in Washington.
During a lengthy grilling with US politicians he was accused of presiding over “astonishing” corporate complacency.
It will be announced in the coming days if Mr Hayward is to face a second bruising encounter on Capitol Hill.
The US Senate foreign relations committee want him – alongside British politicians – to answer questions over BP’s alleged role in lobbying for the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
A BP spokesman said on Saturday that the firm “will respond” to requests from the committee and “will offer someone”, but has not said who.
Among all the gloom for BP, there was better news yesterday regarding the actual clean-up operation.
A tropical storm that forced relief workers to evacuate the site on Friday fizzled out over the weekend, allowing ships to begin returning.
Engineers are now hoping that clear weather will last long enough for them to finish their work on the relief wells.
Mud and cement will then be pumped into the broken well through the relief tunnels in a bid to permanently seal the outlet.
It is hoped that the operation could be completed by mid-August.
But that plan could be further disrupted by poor weather. The hurricane season is set to last until November 30.