BP oil spill will not affect jobs and pensions, says chief executive

The chief executive of BP has moved to reassure staff that the financial fall-out from the oil spill in the US Gulf of Mexico will not affect their jobs and pensions.

In an e-mail to staff, obtained by the Financial Times, Tony Hayward insists the company can afford the massive $625m (£435m) response it has launched in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

“The strength of the BP balance sheet allows us to take on this responsibility,” he wrote. “I know that many of you have questions about how this incident will impact BP, your jobs, pensions, and our future plans. We have demonstrated robust cash flow generation over the past few quarters and at the end of 1Q our gearing ratio was below our 20% to 30% target range, at 19% or some $25bn [£17bn].”

The e-mail continued: “We can therefore afford to do the right thing, and we will do just that – our financial strength will also allow us to come through the other side of this crisis, both financially secure and stronger as a result of what we have learned from this tragic incident and how we have responded.”

BP’s share price has slipped so much since the accident that it has wiped 20% of the company’s market capitalisation, far more than the cost forecasts for the clean-up.

Brand experts have warned that BP’s HR department could have a hefty task on its hands to fix some of the potential damage the oil spill has caused to the firm’s employer brand.

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