BP Readies Defenses as Oil Industry Responds to Shell's BG Raid

(Bloomberg) -- As the oil industry takes stock of Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s $70 billion move for BG Group Plc, one company has more to chew on than most.

BP Plc, the U.K.’s most storied oil producer and prime mover in previous rounds of consolidation, is now thinking what was once unthinkable: that it could be next in the cross-hairs.

BP executives are concerned the company is vulnerable to an opportunistic bid, according to people familiar with the situation. In response, they’ve stepped up internal reviews of takeover scenarios and war-gamed defense strategies with advisers from firms including Morgan Stanley, said the people, all of whom asked not to be identified discussing a private matter. Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., the two largest U.S. producers, are seen as the only realistic predators.

While some in the industry believe a move for the British company remains unlikely because of still-unknown legal liabilities from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, there’s at least one good reason for Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley to be paranoid. Before ruling themselves out by going for BG, Shell took a hard look at buying BP, one of the people said.

“As a matter of good practice, all companies have possible defense arrangements in place,” BP spokesman David Nicholas said in an e-mail. “BP has made no changes to our long-standing arrangements in response to recent moves in the market.”

Representatives for Exxon, Chevron, Shell and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

“Exxon saw Shell do a deal and they would certainly be looking around, it’s the same for Chevron,” said Christopher Geier, partner in charge at Sikich Investment Banking in Chicago. “From a value perspective, it’s possible BP could be ripe for a takeover.”


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