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BP to set up new division to handle spill response

From Allan Chernoff, CNN
  • CEO Tony Hayward announces Bob Dudley will lead new group
  • BP board chairman says Hayward has its "full support"
  • BP has spent $1 billion so far in clean-up, claims, money to states, etc.
  • Chief financial officer says BP has enough resources to continue

New York (CNN) -- BP will establish a separate division to manage the ongoing response to the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill, chief executive officer Tony Hayward told investors Friday.

BP board member and managing director Bob Dudley will lead the group, tasked with managing the oil giant's financial obligations and effort to restore trust and confidence in BP, Hayward said during a conference call.

"I don't believe we could have better person to lead the organization," Hayward said.

The CEO, though, said he would remain focused on the crisis as his top priority, adding that he feels it's appropriate that he be the lightening rod for criticism of BP.

"I've got a pretty heavy Kevlar jacket and so far I'm unscathed," said Hayward. "You know I'm a Brit so sticks and stones can hurt your bones but words will never break them."

Hayward received a boost from board Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, who said the CEO has the board's "full support."

BP executives told investors they have spent $1 billion so far dealing with the Gulf accident but said it is far too early to predict the ultimate financial impact.

"We've got considerable firepower to deal with the costs," said Chief Financial Officer Byron Grote, referring to $5 billion of cash, $5 billion of bank credit lines and an additional $5 billion of standby credit facilities.

The company, Hayward maintained, is performing well aside from the Gulf accident. "Our asset base and balance sheet remain among the best," he said.

Asked about the possibility of a dividend cut, Hayward responded, "It's not something we're contemplating using broadly at the moment. That of course could change." BP currently pays stockholders an annual dividend of 56-cents-a-share.

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