The Deepwater Horizon tragedy has been a fiasco. BP will owe billions and will continue to pay materially and in creditibility for many years. But despite all of this, BP will still exist when the noise dies down.
1) Energy security depends on it
BP owns well developed and yet to be developed strategic oil interests all over the world. BP owns interests in Azerbaijian, Angola, Brazil, and Norway. BP has also strategic rights to potential deepwater sites that could hold vast fortunes of oil resources. In bankruptcy, foreign governments may lose faith in US and Britain organization may lose these assets to major competitors from China and Russia. This is much more threatening to the administration than even the clean up effort.
2) BP is as much an American company as it is British
The current form of BP is the result of a merger between legacy BP, and Aramco, the legacy Standard Oil, in 1998, and a purchaser of ARCO, the Atlantic Richfield Co. in 2000, another major American oil producer, and Burmah Oil, PLC. The resulting company is the largest oil producer in the world. But the legacy of the company makes over 40% of the existing shareholders attributable to the Standard Oil and ARCO firms, and thus American interests. Moreover, over 23,000 of 80,000 BP employees are in the US.
So often in the debate about BP there has been accusations that the US government should punish foreign interests for their irresponsibility. Instead, the history of the firm points to a long history of American shareholder interest in BP. The US government has no interest in penalizing the firm to the detriment of US shareholders unless absolutely necessary
What to do?
Although the US government has had blistering criticism and threats to the BP organization, Bloomberg has reported that Obama said on June 16th "BP is a strong and viable company, and it is in all of our interests that it remains so." Thus if the US government has no interest in bankrupting the company through punitive measures, then someone needs to tell that to the bond market. BP bonds are selling at a 10%+ discount to previous prices. This offers a significant opportunity to the prudent speculator. Bill Gross, the founder of PIMCO, has already taken the leap and currently owns millions of subordinated issues.
Long BP Senior Debt "E" Series and Long BP Subordinated Debt