Barack Obama's attacks on BP hurting British pensioners
Barack Obama has been accused of holding "his boot on the throat" of British pensioners after his attacks on BP were blamed for wiping billions off the company's value.
By Louise Armitstead and Myra Butterworth
Published: 10:12PM BST 09 Jun 2010
City investors said the president was jeopardising the pensions of millions with his "excessive" criticism of the energy company following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Before the accident on April 20, BP was Britain's biggest company, with a stock market value of £122 billion. Since then, £49 billion has been wiped off its value.
On Wednesday, BP's share price fell a further 17.35p to 391.55p – representing a 40 per cent drop on the 655p price of a share two months ago.
Experts have said that the clean-up costs of the oil spill will run to between £10 billion and £20 billion but the biggest cost to the company is from investors dumping stock for fear of BP being further punished by the US Government.
Those fears have been heightened by Mr Obama's increasingly aggressive rhetoric towards BP, which some investors see as an attempt to deflect criticism of his own handling of the crisis. Last month, a White House spokesman said the President's job was to keep his "boot on the throat" of the company.
In the past week, Mr Obama, who insists on referring to BP by its former name British Petroleum, has suggested that its chief executive, Tony Hayward, would have been sacked if he worked for him.
BP's position at the top of the London Stock Exchange and its previous reliability have made it a bedrock
of almost every pension fund in the country, meaning its value is crucial to millions of workers. The firm's dividend payments, which amount to more than £7 billion a year, account for £1 in every £6 paid out in dividends to British pension pots.
BP is so concerned about Mr Obama's power to affect share value that it has urged David Cameron to appeal to the White House on its behalf. Downing Street, however, has refused to get involved. "We need to ensure that BP is not unfairly treated – it is not some bloodless corporation," said one of Britain's top fund managers. "Hit BP and a lot of people get hit. UK pension money becomes a donation to the US government and the lawyers at the expense of Mrs Jones and other pension funds."
Mark Dampier of the financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown said: "[Mr Obama] is playing to the gallery but is not bringing a solution any closer. Obama has his boot on the throat of British pensioners. There is no point in bashing BP all the time, it's not helpful. It is a terrible situation, but having the American president on your back is not going to get it all cleared up any quicker."