Kemp: BP Must Remain British, Says Whitehall

Kemp: BP Must Remain British, Says Whitehall
BP continues to have a close relationship with Britain's establishment - reaching beyond government ministers and right into the core of the permanent Whitehall bureaucracy.


John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own

LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - "Downing Street has discreetly let it be known in the City that it would oppose any takeover of BP," the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

The prime minister's office has signalled it would make life difficult for any bidder, although no bid has been mooted yet, the newspaper said ("UK ministers make Gallic gesture to keep the British in BP", April 26).

The company formerly known as British Petroleum was rebranded as the more neutral BP at the turn of the millennium after absorbing U.S. oil firms Amoco and Arco.

But the company's identity remains complicated, at once BP and British Petroleum, part of Britain's establishment but also a footloose international oil major with operations around the world.

Much more than Royal Dutch Shell, with its historical link to the Netherlands, BP is Britain's national oil company and bears with it the country's hopes for a major post-imperial role.

BP continues to have a close relationship with Britain's establishment - reaching beyond government ministers, who come and go, right into the core of the permanent Whitehall bureaucracy as well as the media and London's financial managers.


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Randy Breaux | May. 1, 2015
I would doubt if the American government made it difficult for BP when they acquired Atlantic Richfield, AMOCO, and other major American oil companies in the 90s. I would think making it difficult might have legal implications as well as compliance issues of swaying the acquisition process.

Philippe | Apr. 28, 2015
The origin of British Petroleum, today BP, is most interesting. The British were split at the beginning of WWI, with powering the British fleet with steam made from burning coal, or as the German navy had started, burning oil to generate steam. Winston Churchill, the than Lord of the Admiralty, was decisive in switching the British navy to oil. To secure the oil needed to power the British ships the British government acquired majority equity of the Anglo-Persian oil company. Charles Greenway, its managing director, became dedicated to transform Anglo-Persian from an oil producer to an integrated oil company. To that intent, Charles Greenway, purchased from the British government, British Petroleum, one of the largest petroleum distribution network in Briton. British Petroleum was a German company, prior WWI, own by Deutsche Bank the German bank. British Petroleum was used to distribute Rumanian oil. As part of the WWI war reparations, this German company was taken over by the British. The name was owned by Anglo-Persian which became Anglo-Iranian Oil Company but not used. In 1954 The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company changed its name to British Petroleum which it owned since WWI. History is interesting to note that BP original owner was German, not British. For much more detail see “The Prize” by Daniel Yergin, Best read on the history of the OIL business.

Gordon Duncan | Apr. 28, 2015
Heard a similar call with keep Scotland as part of Great Britain and we have seen how those empty promises have played out, do you really think that BP whose shareholders are large international conglomerates really care if the price is right. More political propaganda to divert attention from other important issues such as elections, oil prices and Iranian Sanctions

Chris Tadda | Apr. 27, 2015
I think BP dodged a bullet from Shell. They took BG Group instead. I also think that Exxon Mobile or, Chevron will look closely at BP for potential takeover.

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