Lord Browne to get his hands on BP assets again?

Reports suggest the ex-BP boss's new company Riverstone wants to snap up some of BP's unwanted assets.

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
We wonder if Lord Browne will look back on 2010 as a good year? His report on tuition fees literally sparked riots in the streets, while he's also been heavily involved in Government efforts to bring more business expertise into Whitehall. And although he may have been relieved to be out of the firing line at BP this year, he hasn't escaped criticism for the failings that ultimately led to the Gulf of Mexico spill. But if reports are to be believed, there may yet be an upside: Riverstone, the private equity firm he now works for, is supposedly interested in buying some of the assets BP is trying to flog (to bolster its cash pile). It might seem like a bit of an about-turn for his Lordship - but we suppose very few people know these assets better...

According to the reports (originally from Sky News), Riverstone - where ex-BP boss Lord Browne is a partner and managing director - is considering bids for various BP assets, including $2bn worth of natural gas liquid processing facilities in Canada. And to be honest, this wouldn't be a massive surprise. Riverstone is a big US fund that specialises in the energy sector; so if a number of large viable energy assets are about to come onto the market, possibly at fire-sale prices, you'd be amazed if they weren't doing their sums. And Lord Browne should be able to assess their value better than most, since he used to run them.

Nonetheless, the involvement of an ex-BP boss in a bid for BP assets is bound to create headlines. Not least because some critics argue that the culture that ultimately led to the blowout - specifically, a desire to prioritise efficiency and profits above all else, including safety - was a legacy of Browne's time at the helm. In which case it might grate slightly that he might now be able to regain control of these assets on the cheap, as BP looks to build up its compensation war-chest.

It's true that in recent years Lord Browne has seemed more interested in clean and renewable technologies - or in other things entirely, like tuition fees. But in commercial terms, in a world where oil and gas prices are still rising inexorably, the logic of a Riverstone bid for these assets is pretty compelling. So we wouldn't be surprised if he ends up running some of these businesses for a second time.

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