BP remains one of the world's three largest independent (as opposed to state-owned) petroleum producers and refiners, jostling with Shell and ExxonMobil for leadership of the global market. Like the other oil majors, it manages all stages of oil production from exploration to drilling, transporting, refining and retailing. Proved reserves at the end of 2020 were 18.0bn barrels of oil or equivalent. Production averaged 3.5m barrels per day. However it now prefers to describe itself as an energy company, as it attempts to shift at least some of its reliance on fossil fuels. It also operates in a wide variety of other fields including renewable energy, gas and other areas, but agreed in 2020 to quit the petrochemicals business altogether, selling what was left of that division to Ineos for $5bn. In the consumer sector, the group operates or licenses an extensive global network of around 18,900 service stations under brands including BP, Arco and Aral, and it operates electric vehicle recharging networks in the UK and some other countries. Forecourt retail partners include Marks & Spencer in the UK, McDonalds in the US, Pick n Pay in South Africa, Iseya Kosan in Japan, REWE in Germany and Ahold's Albert Heijn in the Netherlands. A deal to acquire Woolworths Australia's chain of petrol station convenience stores in 2016 was blocked by regulators. BP's portfolio of motor oils and lubricants is led by worldwide market leader Castrol. The current business was created from a series of mammoth takeovers in the late 1990s, including that of US giants Amoco and Arco. These replenished the group's ageing oil reserves and gave it a commanding network of service stations throughout the US and Europe. Yet despite its size, BP has wrestled with a string of problems over the past two decades. In the early 2000s the group had begun to shape up as one of the forces to be reckoned with in the exploitation of Russia's huge untapped reserves. However, interference from that country's government prompted a series of political battles which culminated in BP's exit from the region in 2012. It retains a 20% stake in state-controlled Russian oil giant Rosneft. Meanwhile, BP's US operations, and for a while the group's very future, came under threat from a catastrophic drilling accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 which created the worst environmental disaster in history and cost billions in clean-up expenses and regulatory penalties. Since 2014, though, there has been comparative stability in the business. Bernard Looney succeeded Bob Dudley as group CEO in 2020. After tripling in 2018 to almost $10bn, net profit more than halved in 2019 to $4.2bn as a result of steep impairment charges on the sale of less profitable production sites. The Covid pandemic, and a sharp drop in demand for fuel, created further pressure in 2020. Another large impairment charge against production resulted in a net loss of $20.3bn, while revenues plunged from a high of $299bn in 2018 to $180.4bn.
Capsule checked 1st April 2021
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Adbrands Weekly Update 10th May 2018: Big reviews don't necessarily mean big changes. One major global review ended this week with the incumbent retaining the business (albeit no doubt on a smaller profit margin than before). Oil refiner and retailer BP remained under the WPP umbrella. The business is currently led by Ogilvy and Mindshare. Instead, WPP is to launch a new dedicated unit - Team Energy - drawing upon personnel from a range of agencies including Ogilvy, Grey, VML, Mindshare, Essence and Landor.
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Jan 2017: Hard-pressed Australian supermarket giant Woolworths agreed to sell its entire estate of around 530 combined petrol stations and convenience stores to BP for almost A$1.8bn (around US$1.3bn). That business was formed from a previous merger with Caltex. BP already has a branded presence in Australia but the majority of its petrol stations there currently are franchised. The new acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval, would more than double local share to 12%, but is unlikely to complete before 2018. Woolworths plans to use the cash from the deal to reinvigorate its grocery division, struggling with competition from main rival Coles and fast-expanding Aldi.
Adbrands Weekly Update 9th July 2015: Two British companies suffered punitive penalties from US regulators. BP finalised an $18.7bn fine to settle federal, state and local government lawsuits arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It's the biggest such fine in history, but less than was feared, and payment will be spread over as long as 15 years. BP's total fines related to the incident are expected to hit $54bn. By contrast, the $13bn fine handed down to RBS for misleading its customers over the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis is more than analysts had expected. It's also well above the provisions already set aside by the bank. That will force the government to cut the offer price for the expected sell-off of part of its 79% holding.
Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Nov 2012: Oil giant BP finalised a settlement with the US Department of Justice over criminal charges relating to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. It agreed to pay a record $4.5bn in fines and damages to settle charges of criminal negligence. A further $525m will be paid to the SEC to resolve a civil case that it misled investors over the rate at which oil was leaking. Both payments have yet to be approved by court, but would increase the total costs set aside to-date by BP for the disaster to $42bn. Negotiations are continuing to settle civil charges over the devastating pollution caused by the spill, during which almost 5m barrels of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. That fine is expected to be higher, even as much as $21bn, although most observers expect a final deal at $10bn.
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