LONDON – BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward faces rising speculation that the worsening oil spill will cost him his job as he grapples with worried investors, rating downgrades, politicians and public anger over the company’s inability to control the crisis.

Hayward will address London’s investors and analysts today, spokesman Mark Salt said by phone. Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings downgraded BP Thursday because the costs from the accident will hurt finances. Two senators said Wednesday it would be “unfathomable” for BP to pay a dividend.

Criticism of Hayward grew this week after BP’s failure to stem the flow from the damaged well caused the biggest share price drop in 18 years and raised the risk the London-based company may become a takeover target. On Wednesday, he apologized for comments last week that he wanted his “life back.”

“The pressure is on Hayward at the moment, primarily from politicians,” said David Paterson, head of corporate governance at the National Association of Pension Funds in London.

“Investors clearly will want some answers in order to understand what the long-term future for the company is.”

More than $59 billion has been wiped off the value of BP since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Credit Suisse said Wednesday the disaster may cost BP as much as $37 billion, almost double this year’s likely profit, risking a cut in dividends.

“There is a question mark over the chief executive officer,” said Colin McLean of SVM Asset Management in Edinburgh, which holds BP shares. “The dividend will continue but be cut. A quarter or a third is quite possible.”

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power offered even odds that Hayward will leave his post by the end of year. The New York Daily News on Wednesday called him “the most hated — and clueless — man in America” for his handling of the crisis.

Hayward, whose call today will be relayed on BP’s website, came under fire from lawmakers after BP initially underestimated the size of the leak, starting with 1,000 barrels a day and then raising it to 5,000 barrels a day. U.S. Geological Survey and science adviser Marcia McNutt said last week that the well may have been gushing 19,000 barrels a day.

BP sheared away the riser from its leaking Gulf of Mexico well Thursday, a precursor to the company’s attempt to lower a cap onto the leak and divert oil to ships on the surface.

An attempt to plug the well with mud and debris failed last weekend. That means that the flow of oil from the well probably won’t be stopped until August, when the drilling of relief wells is scheduled for completion.

Hayward apologized Wednesday for what he called “hurtful” comments saying that he wanted the spill to end in order to get “his life back.” That followed comments in which he said that the environmental impact of the spill would be “very, very modest” and that the amount of oil and dispersant is tiny compared to the size of the Gulf.

Hayward spent much of his first three years as CEO working to improve BP’s safety record after a series of accidents, including the deadly March 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that helped bring down his predecessor, John Browne.

“Hayward only just got his feet under the table and is highly regarded within the company,” said Peter Hitchens, an analyst at Panmure Gordon in London. “I don’t think Hayward will step down, but you can never rule these things out. BP is starting to be seen as a walking catastrophe.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.