If you have a taste for energy, there's a chance you're considering salting away a few shares of BP
Despite those numbers, I'd still put off buying BP -- at least for a while.
I'd encourage Fools to simply sit tight until BP definitively abandons its role as the Inspector Clouseau of Big Oil. After all, the company's history, during at least the past several years, has combined admirable performance -- operationally and managerially -- with a series of horrific accidents and business pratfalls everywhere from Texas to Russia.
An unrefined beginning
Things really began to sour for BP with a never-to-be-forgotten explosion at the company's Texas City, Texas refinery, which killed 15 and injured 170 others in 2005. That horrible event was followed the next year by an oil pipeline leak in Alaska, and later by the abrupt resignation in 2007 of Lord John Browne, its CEO, following the disclosure of personal peccadilloes.
The next year's "adventure" was tied to TNK-BP, a joint venture that the company owns equally with a group of Russian billionaires, who operate as Alfa-Access-Renova, or AAR. In 2008, squabbling between BP and AAR became so elevated that Bob Dudley, the partnership's CEO -- the precise position he now holds at BP -- was forced to leave Russia when the AAR oligarchs managed to have his visa renewal denied. He then ran the company from an undisclosed location until he was forced to surrender its control to the Russians.
A tragic turnaround
In 2009, BP became the toast of the energy world when, with the help of offshore driller Transocean's
Just seven months later, however, using the same rig, the company drilled the Macondo well, leading to the blowout, explosion, and unrelenting spill that you know all about. Only within the past week has an independent engineering report tied the blame to the rig's malfunctioning blowout preventer -- which had been manufactured by Cameron International
Blocking and tackling by the partners
Alas, BP's woes aren't over yet. Early this January, BP and OAO Rosneft, Russia's largest oil company, carved out a novel agreement. A $16 billion share swap would give BP a 9.5% stake in Rosneft, while the Russian company received a 5% interest in BP. The two companies would then jointly explore the potentially hydrocarbon-rich Russian Arctic. For Russia, the deal would enlist BP's technological expertise for undoubtedly grueling exploration efforts in the arctic, while benefitting the country's efforts to attract foreign investment.
Indeed, before the end of January, ExxonMobil
TNK-BP again crossing swords
But a proverbial fly soon entered the ointment in the BP-Rosneft deal. The four Russian billionaires in the TNK-BP venture -- with whom Dudley and BP had locked horns three years earlier -- refused to approve a deal between BP and Rosneft, which they consider a competitor. Last week, the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal ruled that BP's proposed agreement with Rosneft violates the terms of the TNK-BP shareholder agreement.
Rosneft and BP both maintain that they intend to pursue the deal, though no one knows how they'll manage it. AAR clearly holds the trump card in its latest contretemps with BP. As such, among the possible solutions to the latest dustup within the partnership would be for AAR, through BP, to force its way into the Rosneft deal. Alternately, AAR might push for sizable compensation from BP in exchange for dropping its opposition to the deal.
In another nightmarish outcome from BP's perspective, AAR's blocking tactics could frustrate Rosneft enough to look elsewhere for the technological expertise it desires. Other Big Oil alternatives for the arctic effort would seem to include Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, or maybe Chevron
Clearly, where this now murky deal goes from here is anyone's guess. I'm frankly astounded that Bob Dudley, of all people, would again permit his company to tangle with AAR.
Worse yet, BP's difficulties may still be increasing. Tuesday dawned with media rumors of possible manslaughter charges being levied against the company's managers following the Gulf of Mexico spill. That seems a little far-fetched, but so is a lot that occurred with the big British company.
All in all, as I said earlier, I'd sit on my wallet with this one, at least until its clouds begin to part.
Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named in this article. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.