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JEREMY HOBSON: British oil giant BP said this morning it lost $5 billion last year. Not a huge shock -- given the $40 billion the company had to set aside to deal with the spill in the Gulf. But there is some surprising news coming from BP this morning.
And Marketplace's Stephen Beard joins us now from London to tell us what it is. Good morning Stephen.
STEPHEN BEARD: Hello Jeremy.
HOBSON: So, Stephen, obviously no surprised by BP losing money last year. What's interesting here?
BEARD: Well first of all, these figures could have been much worse given the scale of the disaster. The company is actually paying out a dividend now to shareholders for the first time since the spill. What's also interesting -- BP is selling two of its U.S. oil refiners including Texas City, where there was another major disaster five years ago. The sale is aimed at raising cash to pay some of the Gulf costs, but David Battersby, an oil analyst with brokers Redmayne Bentley, says it also marks a shift in BP's strategy.
DAVID BATTERSBY: I think it's a move away from the United States where they were pilloried so badly. Moving away from refining, and more into exploration and development, in particular with the Russians.
BP recently struck a $10 billion deal to drill for oil in the Russian Arctic.
HOBSON: And Stephen we've been hearing about oil prices going up in part because of the situation in Egypt. That can't be bad news for BP either, I assume.
BEARD: Right, and for all major oil companies. It's the fear that the unrest might lead to the closure of the Suez Canal, which would cut off about 2 or 3 percent of global oil supply, and the bigger fear that the unrest might spread into other, much bigger oil producing countries perhaps even the big one, Saudi Arabia. This seems likely to keep the oil price at least fairly high for the immediate future.
HOBSON: Marketplace's Stephen Beard in London, thanks Stephen.
BEARD: OK Jeremy.