Hayward to adopt low profile at BP helm

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Tony Hayward, who was appointed BP’s chief executive on Tuesday, has already begun to implement changes at the energy group. Among them is lowering the profile of his role.

Lord Browne, his predecessor, resigned suddenly after it was revealed that he had lied to a court while trying to prevent publication of stories about his relationship with Jeff Chevalier, a Canadian who had been his partner for four years.

Mr Hayward will today visit BP operations in Germany as part of a tour of its European business. He has already visited the US, Russia and China in his role as chief executive designate, to which he was appointed on January 12.

However, he has been de facto running BP since the annual general meeting last month.

One of his first moves has been to limit his exposure to analysts and the media.

Lord Browne would typically appear every quarter to discuss performance. Although BP will still report quarterly figures, Mr Hayward will talk about them only at the half- and full-year stages.

He is also expected to have a much lower profile in political circles than Lord Browne, who mingled with senior Labour party figures, including Tony Blair.

So far his only change to the board has been to promote his former deputy, Andrew Inglis, to fill the vacancy he left as chief executive of exploration and production. However, John Manzoni, the head of refining and marketing who was once seen as a possible successor to Lord Browne, is widely expected to leave.

The challenge for Mr Hayward is how to deliver growth at a time when BP’s production is set to be broadly flat for several years, while costs are rising at an annual rate of 11 per cent.

He has said repeatedly that his priority is to ensure safe and reliable operations, so BP is not hit by any more disasters like the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005, which killed 15 people.

He will also be determined to bring key projects on stream as quickly as possible, including the troubled Thunder Horse and Atlantis platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and the Tangguh liquefied natural gas project in Indonesia, and get the Texas City and Whiting refineries in the US operating at full capacity again.

Jason Kenney of ING said: “If you had Texas City and Thunder Horse and the rest working fully, that would mean maybe an extra $2.5bn of earnings a year, and the shares might be closer to £7.50 or £8 than where they are now.”

BP’s shares closed on Wednesday up 3p at 566p.

Lord Browne’s position at Goldman Sachs, where he is a non-executive director and chairman of the audit committee, was in doubt on Wednesday night after the bank refused to confirm that he would be staying, making no comment on his future.

He could still face prosecution following his admission that he lied to the court, even though he was not under oath at the time and the judge did not refer the case to the attorney-general.

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