Hayward takes BP's charm offensive to Abu Dhabi

Tony Hayward, the embattled chief executive of BP, was in Abu Dhabi yesterday to reassure "key partners" of the company's long-term health, and to drum up investment in its depressed stock.

The energy company has ruled out a rights issue to help pay for cleaning up the oil spill still spreading across the Gulf of Mexico. But speculation that sovereign wealth funds, particularly those in the Middle East, might buy into the beleaguered company helped to push up its share price this week for the first time since the fatal explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig off Louisiana on 20 April. The stock has dropped by more than 40 per cent since the disaster but the shares ticked up by another 4.79 per cent to 362p last night, taking the rises to more than 12 per cent this week.

During his Abu Dhabi visit, Mr Hayward met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and BP staff. His charm offensive has already taken him to Russia and Azerbaijan in recent weeks, and he is expected to visit other key oil markets such as Egypt and Angola in the near future.

BP's stock is also seeing a boost from rumours that a relief well being drilled to ease the pressure of the leak from Deepwater Horizonmay be completed ahead of the original August target. However, BP refused to confirm this suggestion yesterday, maintaining that although the scheme was progressing well, it was too soon to revise the completion date.

Malcolm Graham-Wood, a director at Westhouse Securities, said: "A strategy of buying some stock at the recent lower levels is a wise insurance policy... however, further delays due to weather or other problems cannot be ruled out and the idea that buying stock at these levels is a risk-free activity should be treated with some suspicion."

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