US on the warpath over BP

US-LISTED shares of BP plunged nearly 16 per cent last night, hitting their lowest level since 1996 as political pressure on the company over its handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill mounted and investors worried it might be forced to suspend its dividend.

The plunging share price, came amid a growing backlash against the oil giant with a group of US Senators yesterday writing to chief executive Tony Hayward urging him to suspend the dividend. The oil major should hold off making its payments to shareholders until the oil spill is plugged and under control, wrote more than 30 Senators in the letter.

The letter came after BP announced intentions to pay out its first quarter dividend on 21 June.

Despite fears over the increasingly aggressive rhetoric used by US?President Barack Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron refused to comment directly on the issue. A government spokesman said the oil spill remained a corporate issue.

Cameron’s stance was in direct contrast to the views of the majority of panellists on the City A.M. / Panel who said the Prime Minister should make a statement in support of embattled BP. Forty-four per cent of panellists said the Prime Minister should make a statement backing the oil major, while just 13 per cent said he should criticise BP.