Will Anadarko pay up for the US Gulf of Mexico oil spill?

This graph from Bloomberg shows that shareholders are beginning to believe BP and Anadarko may have different fates.

For the first time since the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon Rig the share price of the two companies has significantly diverged.

“People are starting to believe Anadarko will dispute some of their liability with BP,” says Ben Dell, analyst at Sanford Bernstein.

Anadarko owns a 25 per cent stake in the ill-fated Macondo well, which is still spewing oil into the US Gulf of Mexico, while BP owns 65 per cent and Mitsui, the remaining 10 per cent. That means Anadarko and Mitsui are liable to pay their share of any clean-up bill, unless BP is found guilty of gross negligence.

On Wednesday, BP agreed to put $20bn in an escrow account to pay claims arising from the spill. The question now is: Will Anadarko pay $5bn of that or will it set up its own account?

Anadarko, a US exploration and production company a fraction of the size of BP, could have a tough time paying up, especially as $5bn may not be the final bill, given that the $20bn is not a ceiling and punitive damages as well as clean-up costs come on top of it.

With all the focus on BP, Anadarko has kept rather quiet. In a statement to the FT, an Anadarko spokesman distanced the company from the claims account. “We were not involved in the negotiations or contacted regarding the establishment of the account, so we don’t have the insight to comment further,” he said in an email.

He added, however: “We’re going to do what’s right. We continue to assess the various remedies available to us in this matter, and all of the questions regarding potential liabilities will be answered at the appropriate time.”

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