DAVID CAMERON, who is visiting troops in Afghanistan, asked chancellor George Osborne to phone BP chief executive Tony Hayward yesterday, amid concerns the government isn’t doing enough to counter Barack Obama’s increasingly vitriolic attacks on the embattled UK oil major.
“I spoke on the phone to Tony Hayward today at the Prime Minister’s request. We are all concerned about the human and environmental impact and as the Prime Minister has said we understand the concerns of the US administration,” Osborne said.
He added: “The Prime Minister is also clear that we need constructive solutions and that we remember the economic value BP brings to people in Britain and America.”
City A.M. understands the chancellor told Hayward he was aware of the challenges facing BP, but said stepping up Britain’s rhetoric against the US would not help the situation.
“Any suggestion we don’t realise how serious this is frankly ridiculous,” one official said.
Further reaction came from the UK yesterday as John Napier, chairman of insurer RSA, wrote to Obama to accuse him of possible “double standards” in his “prejudicial and personal” criticisms of BP.
In the open letter he said: “There is a sense here that these attacks are being made because BP is British.”
Pressure continues to mount on BP, which saw its stock close down 6.7 per cent at 366p yesterday.
Associate attorney general Thomas Perrelli said this week the Department of Justice (DoJ) was reviewing the possibility of seeking a court injunction to stop BP from making a dividend payout. Perrelli told a White House committee that the DoJ would “take action” to ensure BP has enough cash to pay for the spill clean-up and all compensation.
This marks the first time an official has considered taking court action to stop a company from paying out a dividend. “This is such a unique thing to do. To what extent can the government intervene?” said a US lawyer.
Analysts said yesterday Chinese rival PetroChina, the world’s biggest firm by market value at $330bn, could launch a takeover bid for the troubled British giant.