Late Friday Anadarko Petroleum Corp. spoke up in defense of its creditworthiness following a ratings downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service that was prompted by the company’s potential liability for the Macondo well catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anadarko Petroleum has a 25% stake in the ill-fated well, while BP holds 65% and Mitsui has 10%. Moody’s downgraded the long-term debt rating of Anadarko and its subsidiaries to “Ba1” from “Baa3” and placed the long-term ratings under review for possible future downgrade (see Daily GPI, June 21).

“The action taken [Friday] by Moody’s is very disappointing and surprising in light of Anadarko’s limited role as a non operating investor in the Macondo well,” said Anadarko CFO Robert Gwin. “Although we understand the concern over uncertainty surrounding the current situation, we believe it is too early in the process for Moody’s to take this action. Further, our significant concerns about the behavior and actions of BP as operator of Macondo were highlighted by our chairman and CEO…”

In a terse statement issued after the market closed last Friday Anadarko CEO Jim Hackett said the Macondo well tragedy was preventable and said it was “the direct result of BP’s reckless decisions and actions.” BP quickly challenged the assertion with a statement of its own that said it “strongly disagrees” that it was grossly negligent or engaged in willful misconduct as alleged by Anadarko.

BP shares closed down 4.5% Monday at $30.33 on the New York Stock Exchange while Anadarko shares closed up more than 2% at $43.45.

“We believe our liquidity position, asset portfolio and continued strong operating and financial performance provide us with the flexibility to take action based on the facts as they develop,” Gwin said. “We will take whatever steps are appropriate to protect our stakeholders and will work diligently to regain our investment grade status with Moody’s.”

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