BP oil-spill payments concern its investors
MULTINATIONAL oil and gas company BP has moved to calm investor concerns after debt rose to a record, saying lower oil-spill payments for the rest of the year and funds from asset sales will ease the burden.
“This year debt is going up exactly in line with payments going out for Macondo,” chief financial officer Brian Gilvary said yesterday. “And it will come back down commensurately in the second half of the year when disposal proceeds come in.”
Net borrowings totalled $39.8 billion (R521.61bn) at the end of June, up almost $9bn in a year, because of continuing payments for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill.
While BP managed to cover its dividend and spending commitments with cash flow in the first half, it will need oil prices to rise or at least stay put to avoid further debt increases over the remainder of the year. “The thing which is alleviating any concerns is the fact that we’re now cash break-even at below $50 a barrel,” Gilvary said.
Several of Europe’s biggest oil companies have signalled a return to growth with earnings that exceeded analyst expectations. Royal Dutch Shell generated almost as much cash from operations in the second quarter as it did when crude was above $100. Still, many producers are relying on disposals and scrip dividends – payouts in stock – to free up funds.
At BP, the Macondo disaster forced chief executive Bob Dudley to sell billions of dollars of assets to fund fines and compensation.
The stock rose 2.5 percent to 456.9 pence (R78.74) at 8.22am in London yesterday, reducing its decline this year to 10 percent. Benchmark Brent crude traded at $52.84 a barrel.
While gearing, or net debt to capital, climbed to 28.8 percent in the second quarter from 24.7 percent a year earlier, BP generated $4.9bn in cash from operations, not far off the levels of 2012 and 2013.
“Cash flow was strong in the first half – organic cash flow exceeded organic capital expenditure and dividends paid,” Gilvary said. – Bloomberg