BP plc said Tuesday it plans to take a $1.7 billion charge in its fourth quarter earnings because of additional claims related to the tragic Macondo well blowout in April 2010.
The blowout killed 11 men and led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, which in turn overhauled offshore safety practices and drilling rules.
The court supervised settlement program (CSSP) established as part of the Macondo class action settlement is winding down, BP noted. The latest quarterly charges result “primarily from significantly higher claims determinations issued by the CSSP” during 4Q2017, as well as the continuing effect of an adverse ruling last May by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which requires BP to match revenues with expenses when evaluating business economic loss claims.
“With the claims facility’s work very nearly done, we now have better visibility into the remaining liability,” said CFO Brian Gilvary. “The charge we are taking as a result is fully manageable within our existing financial framework, especially now that we have the company back into balance at $50/bbl.”
During the third quarter conference call, management touted that its breakeven oil price had fallen below $50/bbl from $60 in February.
Cash payments related to Macondo this year are expected to total around $3 billion, versus a third quarter estimate of slightly more than $2 billion. BP most recently estimated its Macondo charges would total more than $62 billion.
“BP will continue to vigorously appeal determinations of claims that it believes are non-compensable under the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee settlement agreement,” management noted.
The company in 2015 finalized a separate $20.8 billion settlement, the largest ever under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, to restore the Gulf Coast economy and environment. A separate U.S. court-supervised settlement program is related to business losses along the Gulf Coast, which is nearly completed.
BP, which plans to issue its quarterly results on Feb. 6, already had said it would record a separate $1.5 billion accounting charge related to recently enacted U.S. tax reform legislation.
BMO Capital markets analysts said the new Macondo charges could push BP’s breakeven oil price up by around $5.00/bbl this year. However, BP should be able to continue share buybacks.
The potential for higher payments related to Macondo “is a concern,” said the BMO team. “There might be further provisions in the next few quarters, as the remaining claims might prove to exceed BP’s expectations.”