BP set to pay first dividend since Gulf oil disaster

 Bob Dudley, BP 's chief executive, is set to announce a resumption of dividend payments on Tuesday as a signal to investors that the UK oil group is recovering after last year's Gulf of Mexico spill .

BP was one of the biggest dividend payers in the UK before the accident, distributing about £7bn to investors in 2009. It suspended the pay -out for the first three-quarters of last year as part of a series of steps to stabilise its financial position in the wake of the mounting costs from the oil spill on April 20 2010 . Any pay -out, however, will be at about half the previous level with analysts expecting the fourth quarter dividend to be 7 cents a share.

The reinstatement will be a key element of Mr Dudley's inaugural presentation to the investment community alongside BP 's full-year results and an update on strategy. The company's profits will have been buoyed by strong oil and natural gas prices, with analysts forecasting clean replacement cost profit, which strips out changes in the value of oil inventories and exceptional charges, of $4.9bn for the fourth quarter, up 11 per cent on the same period in 2009.

Mr Dudley is expected to give an update on the cost of the accident to BP . It has so far made provisions of $39.9bn but still faces a number of claims and potential lawsuits. It has raised about $21bn (£13.2bn) from disposals, close to its $30bn target set after the spill to help pay for claims.

The market will be keen to hear how Mr Dudley sees BP 's future in the US, which before the accident had been its principal strategic focus. Analysts said they did not expect a radical departure from BP 's current strategy but more emphasis on how it will be a smaller, faster-growing company with an increased focus on exploration and production. Jon Rigby, analyst at UBS, said he believed "the core business contains one of the most attractive asset portfolios in the integrated industry".

Investors are also keen to hear more about BP 's alliance with Russian state oil company Rosneft. BP 's billionaire partners in its other Russian venture, TNK- BP , have claimed the UK group has breached the conditions of their shareholder agreement.

One person close to the situation said the partners, represented by AAR, believed BP may have failed to disclose to the Russian government and to Rosneft the terms of its shareholder agreement with AAR for TNK- BP . "There is a question about how forthcoming BP has been with [Igor] Sechin [the Russian deputy prime minister] about their obligations over TNK- BP ," the person said.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, Mr Sechin, who also chairs Rosneft, said BP had assured Rosneft there were no problems with its contract with AAR.

Additional reporting by Catherine Belton in Moscow

Source: Financial Times(UK)

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