BP Gets Biggest Criminal Fine After Biggest U.S. Oil Spill

Tickers in this article: BP

"Our 'base case' expectation regarding Macondo litigation remains that BP will agree a settlement with the DoJ, which we estimate in the order of ~$20bn," wrote Morgan Stanley analysts led by Martijn Rats, in a late October note to clients.

There was little movement in BP shares in reaction to its criminal settlement, indicating that investors feel comfortable in the capital the oil giant's raised to meet spill related liabilities. Shares in BP were up less than 1% to $40.30 in Thursday trading. Pfizer's(PFE) $1.3 billion criminal settlement for its marketing of an arthritis drug was the largest fine, prior to Thursday's settlement.

Year-to-date, BP shares are off over 5%. In third quarter earnings, the company raised its dividend 13% to 52 cents, giving it an over 5% annual dividend yield.

In October, BP cut its biggest-ever asset sale divesting a 50% stake in TNK-BP , a Russian oil and gas venture that amounted to 29% of it's the company's daily 2011 oil and gas production, and 27% of its energy resources, tilted towards oil.

Throughout 2012, BP's been doing heavy lifting selling refineries, pipelines and oil fields it sees as not crucial to the company's future, in an effort to sell down a forecast $38 billion in assets by 2013. Were the $12.3 billion in TNK-BP cash to be considered part of that asset sale figure, BP would already be complete on its M&A goals.

In September, BP announced a deal to sell $5.5 billion in Gulf of Mexico oil drilling assets to Plains Exploration and Production (PXP) . The assets being shopped already produce roughly 59,500 barrels a day and hold a reported 120 million barrels of oil in production reserves.

BP had sold over $24 billion in midstream assets, and $10 billion in oil exploration and production assets, according to data compiled by Bloomberg through the end of 2011.

In mid-August, BP said it would sell its California oil refinery and 800 statewide gas stations to refining giant Tesoro(TSO) for $2.5 billion.

Even with spill-related asset sales hitting a peak in 2012, BP faces substantial risk when it comes to the lingering legal issues from Macondo, both on government charges and civil ones stemming from the Environmental Protection Agency and local communities impacted by the spill.

In a statement, BP said it continues to face an array of federal, state and private civil claims that were not covered in Thursday's settlement.

"A further announcement will be made if and when final agreements are reached. Until final agreements are reached, there can be no certainty any such resolutions will be entered into," said the company on Thursday.

BP has already spent more than $14 billion in spill cleanup costs, an allocation agreed just months after the 2010 disaster. The company has also created a $20 billion fund to pay spill claims and civil settlements, of which $9 billion has already been paid out, according to a statement by BP.