BP oil spill costs pass $3bn mark

Boats cleaning up the oil spill
Image caption There are now more than 44,000 people working on the operation

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has so far cost BP a total of $3.12bn (£2bn), the company has said.

The total includes the cost of containing the spill and cleaning up the oil, and the cost of drilling relief wells.

It also includes the $147m paid out in compensation to some of those affected by the spill.

But BP again warned that the total cost of the spill is likely to be much higher.

The cost is already significantly higher than the $2.65bn cost reported a week ago.

BP said there were now 44,500 people working on the spill response - nearly 5,000 more than a week ago.

Takeover talk

But the company also confirmed that efforts to collect oil from the surface of the water had been temporarily placed on hold due to Hurricane Alex, which is currently passing through the region.

Oil is continuing to leak into the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April.

BP said two relief wells being drilled to stop the leak are still on course for completion by August.

Shares in BP rose more than 2% at the beginning of trading in London. They remain at around half their value before the disaster, however.

Investors remain uncertain over the eventual financial impact of the oil disaster, with estimates from analysts putting the final bill in the tens of billions.

Meanwhile the collapse in the share price has lead to speculation that BP may become a takeover target.

Last week investment bank JP Morgan Cazenove suggested oil giant Exxon Mobil as a possible buyer, while Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has also been mentioned.

But analysts also suggest a potential role for state-backed oil companies such as China's PetroChina or Kuwait Oil.

Media reports in the United Arab Emirates also indicate that Middle Eastern investors are considering buying stakes in BP.

The National newspaper, which is owned by the Abu Dhabi government, cited "informed sources" saying that "BP knows there is potential support from the Middle East".

A BP spokeswoman refused to comment directly on the reports.

"We welcome new shareholders and existing shareholders increasing their holding, but there are no current plans to issue new equity," she said.

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