BP denied a report its embattled chief executive would leave soon, as it lined up $7 billion (€5.46bn) in asset sales to help pay for the worst oil spill in US history, lifting its shares yesterday.
Chief executive Tony Hayward, who has been heavily criticised for his handling of the disaster, had the full support of the board and would stay in office, a BP spokesman said, dismissing a report in the Times that he would step down within 10 weeks.
BP shares rose 3.4%, buoyed by its sale of assets in the US, Canada and Egypt to Apache Corp, a large part of a $10-billion asset disposal plan.
“Such a material sale, achieved so quickly, should ease if not banish any lingering concerns about BP’s liquidity position,” JP Morgan said in a note, adding that the terms of the deal looked robust and underlined the mismatch between what BP could get for its assets and its battered stock price.
Dutch bank ING said BP could afford to go further than its $10bn target, potentially making over $45bn from divestments without denting its core activities.
BP’s market value has fallen by around 39% since an explosion on an oil rig killed 11 people on April 20 and sent oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, soiling the coastline and devastating tourism and fishing industries in the region.
BP capped the well last week, choking off the flow of oil for the first time in the three months since the explosion, and on Tuesday evening officials gave the company permission for another 24 hours of pressure tests on the seal.
Hayward’s ouster has been the subject of speculation after a series of PR gaffes and a failure to quickly stem the flow of oil into the Gulf.
The Times cited a person close to the matter as saying Hayward would have to step down so that BP could build defences against a potential buyout threat by ExxonMobil or Royal Dutch Shell.
There was a growing expectation that Hayward would announce his departure in late August or September, with Robert Dudley, chief of BP’s Gulf Coast restoration efforts, seen as frontrunner to replace him, The Times said.
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