BP can cut spending by 20% this year, CFO says

By Helen Robertson and Rakteem Katakey on 3/16/2020

LONDON (Bloomberg) --BP can slash its spending by 20% this year as the oil market goes into freefall, with some U.S. operations likely to get less investment.

The London-based oil major’s shares have fallen more than 30% since the OPEC+ alliance broke down after a showdown between Saudi Arabia and Russia, triggering a price war as the kingdom vowed to send a flood of cheap crude to Europe.

BP Chief Financial Officer Brian Gilvary said Monday in a Bloomberg television interview that he is confident the company can achieve its $15 billion asset-sale target by the middle of next year. He added that the company is “not talking about” returning to scrip dividends at the moment.

The company is “managing” oil’s volatility and isn’t yet discussing returning to paying dividends with shares instead of cash, he said.

Gilvary said BP had already agreed about $9 billion of that target by the end of last year, but some of those sales are dependent on the price of crude. Oil was trading down almost 11% in London Monday.

The CFO said he sees “negative” oil demand growth in 2020, and crude could even slump further. The company expects a “steep” contango market structure to continue.

Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney said last week that he would cut spending to stem the damage from the oil-price rout, but vowed to continue with plans to transform the oil major into a greener energy giant.

BP is the latest to crimp spending plans as oil companies look to protect their balance sheets. While Looney made no mention of the dividend in his Friday post, oil’s slump into the $30s is potentially making it more difficult to afford. The so-called dividend yield was 11.7% on Friday -- a level that suggests investors think the payout won’t be maintained.

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