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19 Jan 2012

Sylvia Pfeifer, Financial Times

BP may double oil spill pay-out [USA]

BP may agree to pay up to $25bn to settle all charges, including possible criminal charges, with the US government over the devastating Gulf of Mexico spill, according to an analyst at Morgan Stanley, double the figure the company has set aside. Martijn Rats, head of European oil research at Morgan Stanley, predicted there was a 70-80 per cent possibility that BP would agree a deal on civil and criminal charges before the end of February, ahead of the start of the civil litigation over the accident. Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, has repeatedly said that BP would be willing to settle, but not at any price. Asked about the possibility of a settlement earlier this week in London, Mr Dudley declined to comment, saying it was too sensitive a time to talk about it. However, a person familiar with BP’s thinking said that the idea that the company was negotiating over a settlement worth about $25bn was “completely unfounded.” The person added: “There is no factual basis for the suggestion that there is discussion in that range.” Some other analysts also cast doubt on whether BP would be willing to agree to pay that amount of money before the trial had even begun.