BP shares in the U.S. market rebounded sharply Thursday as investors who had pushed the panic button Wednesday heeded cooler analytical heads and drove the price up more than 12% at the close from the 14-year low recorded the previous day.
“We continue to argue that BP is worth more alive than dead,” analysts at Tudor Pickering Holt said, blaming the “poisonous Washington atmosphere” that has gone over the top in response to the steadily spreading spill from BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.
There is no liquidity crisis, the analysts said, pointing to BP’s $6.8 billion in cash and the fact that it generated $3.5 billion in cash in the first quarter before dividends. This is not an Enron situation. Both BP and Anadarko Petroleum, a 25% owner of the disastrous well, have hard assets and cash. Anadarko stock shares also rose more than 12% Thursday, coming off a steep decline Wednesday.
It is possible that continued pressures from Washington, combined with stock and debt market pressures, could eventually drive the companies over the brink, but those doing the pushing should consider that “BP in the hands of creditors and/or government seems to be a political nightmare that could/would cost a lot of incumbent politicians their job in the next elections,” the Tudor Pickering Holt analysts warned.
Beyond that, taking down the two companies could drive other companies out of deepwater drilling for the foreseeable future, if it hasn’t already, as insurance to cover the wipe-out of a company is not likely to be available. “So it seems like the U.S. government would find itself in the position as the source of insurance/risk…or face the eventual drop in deepwater oil production of over 1 million barrels a day,” the analysts said. Loss of deepwater Gulf oil would directly weigh on U.S. energy security, the U.S. Treasury and the economy and jobs in the Gulf region.
With the six-month moratorium installed by the federal government on deepwater Gulf of Mexico drilling, rigs already are leaving the Gulf for more amenable drilling destinations in other parts of the world. A continued exodus would make the deepwater Gulf a dry hole, increasing the leverage of other producing countries over the U.S.
The analysts at Tudor Pickering Holt said they do not cover BP and are not acting as an advocate for the company. “We are simply trying to think through the possible outcomes,” and hoping the politicians do likewise before the situation become irretrievable. Looming on the horizon are the long, hot summer, hurricanes and a congressional biennial election.
In a side note, it came out in Senate testimony of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Wednesday that the group of experts that provided preliminary data and safety information to the Interior Department did not recommend a drilling moratorium, Tudor Pickering Holt pointed out. That was a decision made by the leading politicians, President Obama and Salazar. Apparently a majority of the study group signed a statement “saying they disagreed with the drilling moratorium and were surprised when it was included in the final report.”
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