It’s a return to business as usual for BP. The UK oil group is raising $3.5bn in its first bond sale since the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico on April. The company’s last significant sale was last August when it raised $2bn.
The sale comes just days before Bob Dudley takes over as chief executive of the UK oil group. He faces a daunting in-tray, including cleaning up the oil spill, repairing the company’s reputation in the US, setting out a new strategy for BP and ensuring it does not fall victim to rivals like Exxon.
Among Mr Dudley’s most difficult internal challenges will be tackling “Fortress E&P”, the company’s powerful exploration and production division which is regarded internally as a semi-autonomous unit.
The E&P division has for years been seen by industry rivals as the part of BP that was the most swashbuckling, that prided itself on being at the cutting edge of the game. But if the UK oil group is to re-build its reputation as a safe and reliable operator in the wake of the accident, say industry observers, then Mr Dudley needs to revamp it and possibly change the team at the top of the division, which is currently led by Andy Inglis.
If Mr Dudley faces a daunting do-do list, so does his chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg. Mr Svanberg, who only took over earlier this year, came under fire for his early handling of the crisis. Mr Svanberg needs to secure his own position as well as re-fresh BP’s board.
The company began a search for two new non-executives this summer – expected to replace the long-serving director DeAnne Julius, the chairman of think-tank Chatham House, and former Unilever chairman Antony Burgmans.
Last week’s news that another non-executive, Douglas Flint, will leave next year as he takes over as chairman of HSBC, is a blow to the oil group. As chairman of BP’s audit committee, Mr Flint has been highly effective and very involved with BP since the disastrous spill in the gulf.
Mr Svanberg now faces having to recruit three new non-executive directors in the coming months. Commenting on the departure of Mr Flint last week, Mr Svanberg said: “Douglas’s departure gives added momentum to our task of refreshing board membership.” Mr Svanberg needs to make sure that momentum does not falter.