BP's Hayward in talks with Abu Dhabi to lead new firm

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The Independent Online

Tony Hayward has held talks with Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund about launching a new oil company, which could mark a remarkable turnaround for the former chief executive of BP.

Mr Hayward stepped down four months ago after the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, but the fund's representatives approached him in recent weeks about building a new global oil and gas group. It is thought the emirate will fund the new venture to the tune of several billion dollars.

The overtures to Mr Hayward come at time of mounting fears over the impact of soaring oil prices, which surged past $100 (£62) a barrel last week.

Mr Hayward is reported to have a strong relationship with Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, which has one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world with an estimated value of $800bn. It owns investments that include a minority shareholding in Ferrari, and ports, aerospace and renewable energy firms.

Mr Hayward has also been linked to joining the board of Glencore, the world's largest commodities trader. But as BP's chief executive he was vilified in the US for the way the company responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP reported its first annual loss in over 20 years last week.

Meanwhile, two of the three judges needed to settle the dispute between BP and its Russian partners are appointed, but the arbitration process is now not expected to start until next week.

BP and the Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) consortium, which each hold a half-share in TNK-BP, have locked horns over BP's plans for a $10bn deal with Russia's state-owned Rosneft oil company, including a share-swap and plans to explore for oil in the Kara Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean.

London's High Court last week upheld an injunction from AAR claiming the Rosneft deal violates a shareholder agreement specifying that all shareholders' Russian activities go before the TNK-BP board and calling for all movement on the deal, announced in January, to cease pending a resolution.

The court judgment sets an initial expiration date of 25 February for the injunction, although that may be prolonged if an agreement is not reached. The AAR-selected and BP-selected judges have been appointed; the two must now agree on a third colleague to join the group.