BP oil spill clean-up costs reach £2 billion

BP's clean-up costs for the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster have now passed the 3 billion dollar mark, the company said today.

The oil group has spent 3.1 billion dollars (£2 billion) so far on efforts to stop the leak and to settle damage claims.

But BP shares were up 2% today in a welcome move higher after hefty falls again last week.

Speculation is mounting over the group's efforts to raise capital, with reports that it has launched a hunt to find a strategic investor in a Barclays-style move to ward off hostile takeover attempts.

BP is said to be looking at sovereign wealth funds, mirroring the tactic used by Barclays when it sold stakes to state-funded Middle Eastern groups to avoid a Government bail-out at the height of the financial crisis.

The embattled blue chip has lost close to 50% of its stock market value since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank on April 20, killing 11 workers and causing the worst US oil spill in history.

Its share price plunge has put the group at potential risk of an unwanted takeover approach from rivals such as Exxon Mobil or Royal Dutch Shell.

BP has declined to comment on rumours of its stake sale, except to confirm its aim to raise cash as liabilities of the oil spill soar.

It confirmed plans to put in place a so-called floating riser later this week to boost its containment cap system, which it hopes will increase the amount of oil collected.

The group admitted this had been delayed by last week's disrupted sea conditions as Hurricane Alex passed through the Gulf of Mexico.

It has so far collected around 585,400 barrels of oil, but is now unlikely to be able to fully control the leak until two relief wells are completed, which is not expected until next month.

As well as the ongoing cost of the operation and claims, it has also set aside a 20 billion dollar (£13.5 billion) compensation fund for those affected by the spill.

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