As Pressure Mounts, BP’s Shares Slide Further

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BP Stock Tanking

By DAVID JOLLY and SUSANNA G. KIM

Shares of BP continued to slide Thursday in London as political pressure mounted over the spill in the Gulf of Mexico and investors were shaken by the prospect that the British oil giant might cut its dividend.

BP shares opened down sharply in London, dropping 12 percent to a 13-year low before recovering to trade down about 5 percent by early afternoon. BP’s shares in London have fallen about 42 percent since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20.

The company’s troubles have now attracted the attention of the British government, with a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday telling reporters in London that Mr. Cameron would be discussing the issue with President Obama in a weekend telephone call, Reuters reported.

The oil giant’s shares declined Thursday, and European markets were mixed. The Euro Stoxx 50 index, a barometer of euro zone blue chips, rose 0.38 percent, while the FTSE 100 index was 0.1 percent lower. Markets in the United States are expected to open higher.

The threats to BP’s dividend are worrisome among investors because the company has long had a reputation as one of the most dependable dividend payers, making it an attractive holding for retirees and others who need a steady income. Last year, the company paid about $10.5 billion in dividends. It is one of the largest and most widely held British stocks.

In New York trading on Wednesday, BP’s depositary shares fell 15.8 percent.

The company’s market capitalization has dropped by about half since the leak began. The expense of cleaning up the oil spill continue to grow; the cost of the response effort so far is about $1.43 billion, the company said Thursday. Some on Wall Street fear the company could be forced to seek bankruptcy protection or a merger.

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