BP was at the center of fresh takeover speculation after weekend reports suggested US President Barack Obama’s administration has told ExxonMobil — the world’s largest oil firm — that it would not stand in the way of a takeover bid for the stricken British rival. \nBefore the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP was Britain’s biggest company with a stock market value of £121 billion (US$181.3 billion). Since then more than £50 billion has been wiped off its share value and a number of potential bidders are rumored to be circling to take advantage of its weakened state. \nOil industry sources were quoted as saying that ExxonMobil had been given a green light by the US government to “take a look” at BP. A merger would create a group with a stock market value of US$400 billion. Both firms refused to comment on the speculation. \nBP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, is well aware of the threat of a hostile bid and last week held a series of meetings with potential “friendly” investors including the Kuwait Investment Office. A big strategic investor would make it harder for the likes of ExxonMobil or China’s National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC, 中國海洋石油) to win control in a hostile takeover bid. \nThe Kuwaitis already have a 1.75 percent stake, but BP would like it to increase that to as much as 10 percent. Hayward is also understood to have met with another sovereign wealth fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA). \nThe cost of the spill to BP has already passed US$3.1 billion and the company has pledged some of its assets as security to the US government while it builds up a promised US$20 billion compensation fund. Analysts at Goldman Sachs estimate the final bill for the disaster caused by the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 workers, could run to US$70 billion. \nBP has already begun talks with rivals about selling off assets to help bolster its financial position. CNOOC is interested in buying the Argentinean gas businesses partly owned by BP. The UK oil firm’s joint Russian venture TNK-BP has also opened talks about buying assets outside Russia. \nYesterday, Apache Corp, the US’ largest independent oil group, was named as being in exclusive talks to buy investments worth US$12 billion from BP, including the stake in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil field in North America. \n“We’ve said we’re going to be divesting about US$10 billion over the next 12 months as a result of the spill, but we have no comment on specific deals,” a BP spokesman said. \nBP is hoping to have some firm sales to announce before July 27 when it must release its first-half financial results and give a strategic update about the scale of liabilities faced in the US. \nThe oil spill — and BP’s handling of it — has made the firm public enemy No. 1 in the US, with Obama leading the call for blood. Such is the level of vitriol, that business groups claim US protectionism is on the rise and it is affecting other British firms. Foreign companies have already been restricted from access to US government bailout money and some important federal contracts. \nThis week the Washington-based Organization for International Investment will meet a handful of British business groups including the CBI and Business International to discuss the rise in anti-British rhetoric and how to counter it.
‘NO EQUILIBRIUM’: Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but it needs to do more to have the ability to deter aggression from China, a senior US official said The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said. Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing. However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations