For quite some time now there has been ongoing speculation about the sustainability of BP’s dividend, against a backdrop of rising debt levels and concern around the company’s ability to continue to pay it in a world of lower oil prices, so this morning’s decision to reduce the pay-out is welcome, even if it is long overdue.
Two years ago, the company added to this debt load even further by spending $10.5bn on BHP Billiton’s shale assets, a deal that raised quite a few eyebrows at the time.
Since then the company has made little effort to deal with the unsustainable nature of its debt levels, which in the post Deepwater Horizon world could be construed as a missed opportunity.
Since 2018 BP’s net debt had risen sharply close to $50bn, which for a company that should have foreseen the move towards renewables is a huge missed opportunity. This has since come down closer to $40bn, due to the recent issuance of hybrid bonds, but it is still the wrong side of 30%, at 33% for a company that is heading into a period where much greater investment will be needed on the renewables side of the business.