The name says it: British Petroleum. The giant oil company’s dividends, which amount to more than £7 billion a year, account for roughly one sixth of British shareholder revenue. Virtually every pension fund in the UK has BP stock, and over there, America’s criticism of the oil company is being interpreted as an attack on retirees.
Neil Duncan-Jordan, of the National Pensioners Convention, put it this way:
Most ordinary people would not have thought that BP would have an impact on their retirement but if BP’s share price goes down then their pension pot goes down. Most of those pension funds are invested in the default option, which is stocks and shares, and so if BP goes down the pan then their pension pot goes down the pan.
The Gulf disaster and the publicity it has generated have sent BP share prices plummeting. Before the April 20 oil rig explosion and subsequent gusher, BP was Britain’s biggest company, with a stock market value of £122 billion. Since then, £49 billion of its value has been wiped out as investors shed the company’s shares.
Business leaders and politicians in the UK are depicting President Obama as the villain in this story. They say the president’s “excessive criticism” has jeopardized the pensions of millions of Britons.
According to one financial leader, Mark Dampier of Hargreaves Lansdown, “Obama has his boot on the throat of British pensioners.”
And Lord Norman Tebbit, a Conservative who served in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, declared:
The whole might of American wealth and technology is displayed as utterly unable to deal with the disastrous spill – so what more natural than a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan political presidential petulance against a multinational company?
The Daily Telegraph reports that:
There is particular anger (in Britain) at U.S. interference in the company’s dividend policy. Earlier this week, two senators suggested BP should be banned from paying out to shareholders until the full clean-up costs are known. One fund manager said: “Who is Obama to dictate whether UK pension funds are paid a dividend? Others in a similar position have been able to pay dividends.”
Jason Kenney, an oil and gas analyst at ING, said: “When you compare how Britain reacted towards the U.S. company Occidental after its Piper Alpha disaster where 167 people died, they are worlds apart. The U.S. reaction is getting towards hysterical. Half of them seem to think the U.S. is knee deep in oil. It’s difficult to underestimate the effect 24-hour TV dinner media coverage of the spill is having over there.”
Some politicians even question the motives of U.S. critics. Tom Watson, the former labor minister, theorized that its American competitors want BP to fail.
These deluded souls think U.S. critics want BP to fail so American oil companies can get their business? They don’t see any other reason for Americans to be upset?
BP flouts U.S. regulations and ignores common-sense safety precautions, causing the worst environmental disaster in American history, and the British are pouting at President Obama’s criticism?
It’s the British pensioners they’re most concerned about, not the 11 dead workers, not the oil-covered wildlife suffering a gruesome death, not the polluted beaches and irreparably damaged wetlands, not the lost livelihoods of thousands of Gulf Coast residents, not the massive impact on the entire American ecology – and economy?
So far, the British government has declined BP’s request to contact the White House on its behalf. But there are signs of tension between the two traditional allies as a result of U.S. reaction to the Gulf disaster.
Former labor minister Watson introduced a motion in Parliament supporting BP and emphasizing its importance to British pensioners. London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, (photo above) said in a recent speech that it “becomes a matter of national concern if a great UK company is being continually beaten up on the international airwaves.”
And The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain’s Foreign Office is “concerned that the criticism of BP is harming Anglo-U.S. relations.”
Isn’t that just too bad?
i should think Anglo-U.S. relations are already in trouble, considering that a British company has come over here and caused as much damage as some terrorist organization – then gets the support and sympathy of the folks back home.