BP Gains on Bid to Stop Leaking Gulf Well, Possible Sale of Alaska Assets

BP Plc jumped the most in 20 months in London trading on speculation the company may succeed in halting the biggest oil spill in U.S. history this week as it negotiates the sale of assets in Alaska.

BP climbed 9.4 percent, the most since November 2008, to close at 398.95 pence in London. That’s 31 percent higher than the low reached June 25. The shares are still down 39 percent since the April 20 accident in the Gulf of Mexico that triggered the leak.

The producer said it may be able to cut off the flow of oil from the damaged well this week, beginning with a pressure test today. Separately, BP is in talks to sell assets to Apache Corp. for a price of less than $12 billion, people familiar with the matter said yesterday. That deal alone would put BP ahead of its target of $10 billion in asset sales to help cover spill costs.

“There’s limited material downside after the well is capped,” said Jason Kenney, an analyst at ING Wholesale Banking in Edinburgh. “You can put Alaska in a pot beside Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and Vietnam assets that are being looked at.”

If the well passes the 48-hour test, BP may shut it, Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer for exploration and production, told reporters. The relief wells BP is drilling will still be needed to permanently plug it, he said.

Spill Costs

BP scrapped its dividend and said last month it will sell some assets to raise $10 billion for cleanup costs, fines and legal damages from the Gulf spill. The company said today it has spent $3.5 billion on the spill. It agreed to establish a $20 billion fund for damage claims with President Barack Obama last month.

The drop in BP shares has prompted speculation that it may be taken over.

Exxon Mobil Corp., based in Irving, Texas, has been told by the U.S. government it can look at a potential bid for BP, the London-based Sunday Times reported, citing unidentified people.

“If Exxon shows its hand, there would be others queuing up behind it,” ING’s Kenney said. “BP screams out as being cheap at the minute because the value of its assets is about $90 billion more than the current enterprise value.”

It is unlikely that Exxon will actually bid for BP, Kenney said. Robert Dye, a spokesman for Apache, and Max McGahan, a BP spokesman, declined to comment on the asset sales. Exxon declined to comment on its reported interest in BP.

BP fell 13 percent on June 1 after an attempt to plug the leak by injecting mud and debris from the top of well failed. Relief wells, which will intersect the damaged Macondo well near the bottom to stop the flow of oil and gas, are running ahead of schedule and may be completed this month, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said last week.

The cost of insuring BP debt against default fell for the ninth straight day, dropping 35.5 basis points to 335.5, according to CMA DataVision, the lowest since June 8.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Swint in London at bswint@bloomberg.net.

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