PRESSURE was growing on Prime Minister David Cameron last night to defend BP, the oil giant that has been under constant attack by US politicians in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
As BP’s share price fell again yesterday closing 4.97 per cent lower at 408.9p, President Barack Obama launched a scathing attack on the company’s chief executive Tony Hayward and said he wanted to know “whose ass to kick”.
Obama also criticised insensitive comments by Hayward, including an assessment early in the crisis that suggested there would be only a modest environmental impact from the crippled well. “He wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements,” said Obama.
Fears are mounting that BP is being singled out for blame in the disaster, whereas the US firms that share responsibility are being let off relatively lightly. Investors are concerned that Obama may yet seek to break up the UK oil major to gain populist support in the run up to the November mid-term elections, or pressure the oil giant into cutting its dividend.
“If US political rhetoric continues, we would like the British government to raise a diplomatic ‘red flag’ regarding the sanctity of UK incorporated entities. Such political interference is an issue that has profound implications for all industries, not just the oil industry,” said Fred Lucas, an analyst at JP Morgan Securities.
BP has seen its shares drop by 38 per cent since the 20 April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig and analysts estimate £40bn has been wiped off BP’s market value.
Obama said: “There is already damage done to the Gulf Coast and there will be economic damage done that we will make sure BP is responsible for and compensate people for.”
Tony Hayward will testify in front of the US House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on 17 June.