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Bye-bye BP?


Bye-bye BP? The British oil company faces a dramatic restructuring after Gulf Coast oil spill

BY Helen Kennedy

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER: Sunday, July 18th 2010, 2:53 PM

Noonan for News: A BP gas station in Harlem was cleaned after being vandalized last month. The company’s image, however, may never recover.
BP may sell off its gas stations and scale back US operations, a British newspaper reported Sunday.

Even as the news from the Gulf Coast looked bright – the cap on the broken well continued to hold back the oil gusher for a third day –  the firm’s future seemed to darken.

The Sunday Times of London reported that directors at the oil giant once known as British Petroleum had been discussing a dramatic restructuring of the company with major shareholders.

Options reportedly include splitting up the conglomerate by selling off its refineries and gas stations, and doing more engineering in-house rather than outsourcing it.

The restructuring of BP could render it a significantly smaller firm focusing primarily on exploration in emerging oil regions in Africa and Latin America.

The company is also planning to sell about 10% of its assets to cover the cost of the devastating oil spill, which has so far hit $3.5 billion, with many more expenses to come.

BP employs about 51,600 people in its gas stations and refineries –  more than half of the firm’s 80,300-strong workforce – but those parts of the business account for just 3% of the company’s pre-tax profit, the paper said.

Meanwhile, things looked sunnier on the Gulf Coast than they have in three months.

“We’re not seeing any problems, at this point,” Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, said at a press briefing about the well cap holding firm.

He said the company plans to keep the cap in place, stopping the flow of oil into the gulf, until a relief well to be completed in the next few weeks can kill it for good.

Earlier, the plan had been to re-open the well and connect it to pipes that would siphon the leak up toward ships on the surface.

That maneouver would have finally allowed scientists to gauge for sure how much oil has been leaking – a key factor in how much BP is on the hook for in terms of damages.

But BP said it would also mean as many as three more days of leaking oil while the pipes were re-connected.

“No one wants to see oil flowing back into the sea, and to initiate containment would require that to occur,” Suttles said.

The absence of leaking oil brought relief to the battered coast.

“It is welcome news. It’s the first piece that we’ve had in a long time,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told CNN of the well cap holding firm.

“But it’s just a beginning. We have a very, very long way to go,” he said. “We really have to aggressively capture the oil, clean the coast, make sure that all of the families are compensated, and then begin to restore the wetlands down here.”

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