Photographer: Jason Andrew/Getty Images

BP Raises Deepwater Horizon Spill Liability by $5.2 Billion

  • Company says any further claims won’t have a material impact
  • Total libility from 2010 Macondo spill raised to $61.6 billion

BP Plc has raised the total liability from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, which triggered the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, by $5.2 billion to $61.6 billion before tax.

The London-based company expects to take a $2.5 billion after-tax charge in its second-quarter earnings following “significant progress” in resolving outstanding claims, it said in a statement Thursday. Any further payments related to the 2010 incident that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico won’t have a material impact on financial performance, it said.

"Over the past few months we’ve made significant progress resolving outstanding Deepwater Horizon claims," Chief Financial Officer Brian Gilvary said in the statement. "Importantly, we have a clear plan for managing these costs and it provides our investors with certainty going forward."

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill transformed BP, prompting the resignation of former Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward and forcing the company to sell assets and downsize its operations to cover the billions of dollars of fines, penalties and compensation. The company pumped 3.14 million barrels equivalent a day of oil and gas last year, compared with almost 4 million in 2009. It’s current market capitalization of $114 billion is more than a third lower than prior to the disaster.

Record Settlement

The estimate means BP will have booked a total of $44 billion in after-tax charges related to the disaster. The company will continue to use proceeds of asset sales to meet these costs, Gilvary said. It has said it plans to raise $3 billion to $5 billion from sales this year and $2 billion to $3 billion a year from 2017. BP is scheduled to release second-quarter financial results on July 26.

The new $5.2 billion charge is related to possible payments to businesses and individuals who have claimed they were affected by the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP estimates some claims to individuals will be paid by the end of this year while it expects to resolve other claims of business and economic loss by 2019, according to the statement.

“This now looks like a line under all potential liabilities related to the spill,” said Brendan Warn, a managing director at BMO Capital Markets in London. “This doesn’t change BP’s organic cash flow estimates and now helps them move on and continue on their path of delivering projects and keeping the company on track.”


Spending Cuts

In addition to selling assets to pay for the spill, the slump in oil prices over the past two years has forced BP Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley to cut spending in order to protect the balance sheet and maintain dividend payouts to shareholders. The company has said it has reduced costs enough for its cash flow to cover spending and dividends at an oil price of $50 to $55 a barrel next year. Brent, the international benchmark, has averaged $41.70 a barrel this year.

At the end of last year, BP had set aside $14.3 billion for spill response charges, $22.6 billion for litigation costs and claims and $8.6 billion for environment damage costs.

The $20.8 billion settlement it agreed last year with the U.S. government and five Gulf states over the spill was the largest in the Department of Justice’s history. That resolved civil claims under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, as well as economic damage claims from regional authorities. The company agreed to pay the natural resource claims over 18 years and the economic damage claims over 15 years.

BP reached separate agreements to resolve criminal charges, settle claims it hid the size of the spill, and cover private property and economic damages.

In December, federal prosecutors dropped manslaughter charges against BP’s two top employees on the Deepwater Horizon, which was operated by Transocean Inc. The men had been accused of ignoring multiple signals that the well was dangerously unstable before the explosion.

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