BP dividend suspension: Not whether, but when
BP's directors will discuss whether to suspend dividend payments at a meeting on Monday, although in an informal sense the decision to make some kind of dividend reduction has already been taken.
In practice, Monday's discussion at newly instituted weekly meetings of the board will be about when to suspend the payments, how long to suspend the payments, and what to do with the billions of dollars that would be saved and not paid to shareholders.
As I've been saying for a couple of days, it looks increasingly likely that dividend payments will be ceased for a period - because of the intense pressure to do so from senior US politicians and the White House.
That said, no formal announcement on the dividend is expected to be made on Monday.
Instead the BP board will prepare the ground for negotiations on what it should and can do about the dividend that are expected to take place on Wednesday with President Obama and other senior members of his team.
"There's no point announcing what we'll do about the dividend until we've heard the view of the administration on this", said a senior BP source.
BP's chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, will lead the BP delegation at the meeting, but the chief executive, Tony Hayward, and the executive in charge of the company's response to the rig disaster, Bob Dudley, will also be present.
Update 1715: There's no point making an implacable enemy of the most powerful man on earth.
Obvious to most of us, I suppose.
But it has taken a while for BP's board to reach the decision that if President Obama wants them to stop paying dividends, then for a while at least they'd better do so.
That said the when, how and how long of suspending dividend payments won't be fixed till a board discussion on Monday, followed by negotiation with the president himself on Wednesday.
Even so, it is certain that BP will cease paying the £1.8bn of dividends per quarter that it's been delivering to shareholders - until it can quantify the final massive bill for the Gulf of Mexico oil debacle and prove to the White House that it can afford those enormous costs.
Even if those costs of clearing up the mess, fines and compensation exceed £20bn, as analysts expect, BP feels it has the resources to cope.
Its biggest fear, which its chairman will express to the president, is that the US administration's campaign against it could throw the baby out with the oily bathwater - in that a bankrupt BP would leave the president with no-one to clean up America's worst-ever environmental disaster.
Update 2019: For what it's worth, a BP spokesman tells me that he doesn't expect any announcement on the dividend next week - which is not what I was being told by BP sources earlier.
The official position is as follows.
The board will discuss the dividend on Monday. And it will discuss the dividend with President Obama on Wednesday.
But the company does not expect to make any statement on the dividend next week.
And as of now, the board does not expect to make a formal decision on the dividend until nearer the time of its quarterly results in July.
We'll see what happens next week.