BP may pay U.S. $25 billion for Gulf spill

BP Plc (BP/), the operator of the Macondo well that caused the worst U.S. oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, may reach a settlement with the U.S. for as much as $25 billion, Morgan Stanley said.

The company and the Department of Justice will probably agree on a sum of $20 billion to $25 billion before the trial scheduled to start on Feb. 27, analyst Martijn Rats said in a note published today. The figure, which includes civil charges, criminal penalties and fines under the Clean Water Act, exceeds the $12 billion that BP set aside for these costs, he said.

BP took about $40 billion in charges related to the April 20, 2010, blowout on the Deepwater Horizon rig and set up a $20 billion fund for victims of the spill. The higher-than-expected cost of a settlement will prevent BP from raising its dividend, Rats said.

The result of the trial, “would be particularly uncertain and difficult to predict,” Rats wrote in the note. “Given the large amounts involved, we believe both BP and the DoJ will find the associated risk unattractive.”

A settlement will probably come after BP announces fourth quarter results on Feb. 7, Rats said. BP has already settled with four of the six other companies involved in the spill.