BP 'seeks investors to ward off predators'

Oil group BP is looking to sell up to £6bn of shares to strategic investors as part of a defence strategy to ward off hostile takeover bids, according to a report.

Oil group BP is looking to sell up to £6bn of shares to strategic investors as part of a defence strategy to ward off hostile takeover bids, according to a report.

The battered blue chip is believed to be sounding out sovereign wealth funds to take a stake of between 5 per cent and 10 per cent.

The Sunday Times report comes as pressure on the group shows no sign of letting up following the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

Speculation over an imminent management shake-up continues to swirl, as it is thought both chief executive Tony Hayward and chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg are preparing to head for the exit as soon as the leak is secured.

BP has now lost more than 50 per cent of its stock market value since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 workers and causing the worst US oil spill in history.

Its share price plunge has put the group at potential risk of an unwanted takeover approach from rivals such as Exxon Mobil or Royal Dutch Shell.

To secure its independence, BP is said to be hoping to strike a deal similar to that seen with Barclays at the height of the financial crisis.

Barclays avoided a government bail-out by raising more than £7 billion from wealthy foreign investors, including the state investment funds of Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

BP is said to be stepping up its takeover defence strategy as it comes closer to plugging the oil leak - after which it is thought to be most at risk of an approach.

The group is due to boost its containment cap system by putting a so-called flexible riser in place this week, which it hops will increase the amount of oil collected.

BP is also working on two relief wells to stop the leak, which should be completed next month.

However, the hurricane season poses a serious risk to response efforts, already costing BP billions of pounds.

Its last report on the bill so far showed BP had spent 2.65 billion US dollars (£1.7 billion), as well as setting aside a 20 billion dollar (£13.2 billion) compensation fund.

 

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