BP seen unlikely to settle spill case before trial

BP believes it is highly unlikely to settle the tangle of litigation related to the Deepwater Horizon explosion before a trial scheduled to start Feb. 27, according to analysts who met with CEO Bob Dudley and other BP executives earlier this week.

“What BP has said is that they would love to settle, but it has to be on favorable terms,” said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst with Raymond James.

The non-jury trial before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans incorporates civil suits involving scores of individual, corporate and government parties.

Among them are BP, which owned the Macondo well that blew out and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico; Halliburton, which cemented the well; and Transocean, which owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded and killed 11 workers.

The federal government is pursuing civil fines and penalties based on the Clean Water Act and other environmental legislation, and also is conducting a criminal investigation.

“Don’t hold your breath for an over-arching settlement,” Molchanov wrote in an analyst’s note summarizing the presentations BP executives made to investors. “The management’s view is that an over-arching “global” settlement is looking highly unlikely.”

In a conference call earlier this month to discuss quarterly financial reports, Dudley said the company is “ready to settle, if we can do so on fair and reasonable terms,” but is preparing for trial.

The company had no further comment this week on a possible settlement strategy or timeline, BP spokeswoman Ellen Moskowitz said.

BP management also believes that the $37 billion that it has set aside as a provision for all liability-related costs is more than will be needed to settle the case, Molchanov wrote. BP declined to comment on the provision.