BP believes compensation claims related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will be less than the £13billion it has put into an independent claims fund.
This was the view of analysts at Citigroup following a meeting with the energy major’s incoming chief executive, Bob Dudley.
The BP boss had said that, given current estimates of claims, the money in the fund probably exceeded claims.
Mr Dudley added, however, that the £20billion-plus provision it had made for the total cost of the disaster remained a reasonable indicator of eventual cost.
He also told the analysts that claims by US gulf states for lost tax revenue related to the spill should not be too high because any tax drops as a result of lower economic activity following the spill would be offset by the economic stimulus of the response effort.
Citi said after the meeting that it had growing confidence BP would reinstate its dividend early next year.
It said: “Mr Dudley pointed out that the company was not ordered to cut the dividend by the US government and it was a choice by BP to preserve liquidity.
“We believe the company can reinstate a dividend with the fourth-quarter results.”
Analysts at Bernstein took a more sceptical view on a return to dividends, saying: “BP’s cashflow position should be just strong enough to support a restoration of dividends by the first quarter of 2011, under an $80-a-barrel oil price scenario, however, this assumes divestments are completed.”
Mr Dudley told the investment bank that BP’s divestment target remained £16-£19billion, despite reports that this had been increased by £6.45billion.
A report by the oil company last week said a complex and interlinked series of events involving mechanical failures and human judgments had led to the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.
After an internal inquiry led by company head of safety and operations Mark Bly, the report found BP was responsible in part for the tragedy, but also placed some blame on rig owner Transocean and cement contractor Halliburton, both of which have attacked the findings.
The BP investigation team has proposed 25 recommendations designed to prevent such an incident. These are directed at strengthening blowout preventers, well control, pressure-testing for wells, emergency systems, cement testing and rig audit and verification, plus personnel competence.
The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20 killed 11 workers and caused an estimated 4.9million barrels of oil to gush into the gulf in the largest offshore spill in history.