“Bob Dudley shrank BP Plc (BP/) to save it.
The onetime Mississippian and current chief executive officer has sold more than $50 billion of assets to pay the costs of the worst U.S. oil spill in history in 2010. Rescued from the brink of collapse, Europe’s second-largest oil company is now seen as vulnerable to a takeover.
BP is the cheapest of the world’s five biggest non-state oil companies by market value relative to reserves, earnings and output. As a result it may become a target, according to people familiar with the strategic thinking of the London-based company and its potential acquirers.
Dudley’s boldest move as the first American in charge of the 103-year-old British company was last month’s exit from a turbulent Russian venture in exchange for a 20 percent stake in state oil company OAO Rosneft (ROSN) and $12.3 billion in cash.
The deal solved one of BP’s two biggest challenges. The other,litigation in the U.S. over fines from the spill, came closer to a resolution last week with a $4.5 billion criminal settlement. The civil claims may vanish in a settlement before the trial set to start Feb. 25.
“You can absolutely make the case that it’s a potential takeover target” once BP’s U.S. settlement and the Russia deal are completed, said Julian Birkinshaw, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the London Business School, the U.K.’s best, according to Financial Times rankings. “BP has been fighting wars on both the eastern and western fronts” that held back buyers, he said.
BP shares fell to the lowest since July after the criminal settlement was announced. Shares rose as much as 11.8 pence, or 2.8 percent, to 428.4 pence in London today. The stock traded at 426.6 pence 12:10 p.m. local time.”