Corporate Watch : BP Plc : Overview

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BP plc

Industry Areas Oil and gas exploration and production, refining/marketing and supply of petroleum products, manufacturing and marketing of Chemicals, Gas & Power generation and the manufacture of Photovoltaic (solar) cells.


Market share/importance

The oil sector accounts for about 13.3 per cent of FTSE 100 [1] in the UK BP is one of the largest players in this sector. As such, BP is one of the barometer companies of the British economy. BP's successes and failures are likely to be mirrored in the UK economy as a whole.

  • BP's crude oil production in 2000 stood at 1,928 thousand barrels per-day,[2]
  • Gas production at 7,609 million cubic-feet per-day,[3]
  • Total production at 3,240 thousand barrels of oil-equivalent per-day,[4]
  • Gas sales at 14,471 million cubic-feet per-day,[5]
  • Refinery throughputs at 2,916 thousand barrels per-day,[6]
  • Marketing sales at 3,756 thousand barrels per-day,[7]
  • Chemicals Production at 22,065 thousand tonnes.[8]
  • BP solar is the world's largest solar electric company [9]

  • For comparison
  • Shell's Crude oil production in 2000 stood at 2,274 thousand barrels per-day [10]
  • Shell's Natural gas production available for sale at 8,212 million standard-cubic-feet per-day [11]
  • Shell's oil product sales at 5,574 thousand barrels per-day [12]

  • Exxon-Mobil's liquids production in 2000 stood at 2,600 thousand barrels per-day [13]
  • Exxon-Mobil's natural gas production available for sale at 10,300 million cubic-feet per-day [14]
  • Exxon-Mobil's refinery throughputs at 5,600 thousand barrels per-day [15]
  • Exxon-Mobil's petroleum product sales at 8,000 thousand barrels per-day [16]
  • For a guide to the units used by the oil and gas industry try:

    BP ranks in the top three in terms of reserves in the global oil and gas industry with operations in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australasia and Africa [17]. More than 70% of profits are generated in Europe and the United States but the company is also pressing ahead with new exploration and production operations in Africa, South America, Asia and the Caspian sea [18].

    BP is the largest retailer of gasoline in the US. [19] Marketing as AMOCO in the eastern United States and ARCO in the west, it has about 17,150 service stations nationwide [20].

    Throughout the rest of the world the company has a network of 11,850 BP branded service stations [21], 1,525 in the UK [22] and products on sale in 100 countries [23]. In the UK BP also supplies fuel to petrol stations at Safeway supermarkets [24].

    BP retails its Castrol branded lubricants in more than 50 countries and in addition, supplies Castrol specialist products and services to the metalworking industry [25]. Outside North America the group also markets lubricants under the BP brand.

    BP is also one of the world's largest marketers of aviation fuel and a major supplier of fuels and lubricants to the shipping industry. BP supplies more than 900 ports and 1,400 airports worldwide [26].

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    Before January 1999 the company was registered as the British Petroleum Company PLC. In January 1999 following a merger the company took on the Amoco name [27]. They retained the name BP Amoco, until April 2000 [28] The transition to the BP PLC name was managed by BPs advertising agency: Ogilvy & Mather and PR Consultants: Ogilvy PR. The change of name culminated in BPs new logo and re-branding, in the first quarter of 2001 [29].

    BP was founded by William Knox D'Arcy, an Englishman who, shortly after the turn of the century, ventured to Persia (Iran) in search of oil. D'arcy's company was first registered in 1909 under the name Anglo-Persian Oil [30] and for the next 60 years the company's focus lay in the Middle East [31].

    The British government acquired a controlling stake in the company shortly before the first world war as Anglo-Persian promised secure supplies of oil [32]. Between the wars Anglo-Persian expanded into Canada, South America, Africa, Papua and Europe and in 1935 the company was renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company [33].

    In 1951 Iran nationalised the company's assets, at that time the UK's largest investment overseas. To counter this, the company began exploration in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Kuwait, Libya and Iraq and in 1954 the company was renamed British Petroleum Company [34]. From the late 1960s operations shifted westwards, towards the USA, (Prudhoe bay, Alaska) and the British North sea. Both of these fields came on stream in the mid 1970s transforming the company and allowing BP to weather the oil price shocks of 1973 and 1979 [35]. BP today has operations in over 70 countries [36].

    The British government sold its last shares in the company in 1987 [37]. By that time BP's performance was languishing at the bottom of its sector and a number of investments had backfired. In 1992 the group posted a loss and had to embark on a drastic cost-cutting exercise. A number of key figures at the top of the company are credited with turning the company around, David Simon (Lord Simon of Highbury), Peter Sutherland and following them the current group chief executive John Brown. By 1996 the group had turned around and was performing within the top quartile of the oil and gas sector [38].

    The company's recent history has been dominated by a number of mergers. BP already held a 55% stake in the US Standard Oil Company and in 1987 successfully acquired the remaining 45% and formed the company BP America [39]. 1987 also saw BP acquire Britoil the North Sea exploration company [40].

    On August 11 1998 BP and Amoco: the American Oil Co. Established in 1910 [41], announced that they had agreed the world's largest-ever industrial merger [42].

    On April 7th 1999 BP announced that it would buy from Enron the 50 per cent stake it did not already own in the solar electric company Solarex, the company would be called BP Solarex [43]. BP Solar's website boasts not only that BP Solar is the world's largest solar electric company but also that it has over 44 years of collective experience [44]. BP Solarex has manufacturing bases in the USA, Spain, Australia, and India and a total production capacity of 30-40 MW of solar products per-year, representing a 20 per cent share of the global market.

    Also in recent years BP has combined its operations with Burmah-Castrol, well known for its Castrol branded lubricants [45] and ARCO, whose petrol is on sale across a large part of the United States [46].

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    [2]BP annual report 2000:

    [3] BP annual report 2000:

    [4] BP annual report 2000:

    [5] BP annual report 2000:

    [6] BP annual report 2000:

    [7] BP annual report 2000:

    [8] BP annual report 2000:


    [10] Results, 4th quarter and full year 2000, Royal Dutch/Shell group of companies /(page 4)

    [11] Results, 4th quarter and full year 2000, Royal Dutch/Shell group of companies /(page 5)

    [12] Results, 4th quarter and full year 2000, Royal Dutch/Shell group of companies / (page 6)

    [13] ExxonMobil, summary annual report, 2000 (page 8)

    [14] ExxonMobil, summary annual report, 2000 (page 8)

    [15] ExxonMobil, summary annual report, 2000 (page 16)

    [16] ExxonMobil, summary annual report, 2000 (page 16)






    [22] Institute of petroleum, retail marketing survey, supplement to 'petroleum review', march 2000, pp2,12






    [28] P.R. WEEK, US EDITION, 17/04/2000, P23










    [38] BBC News, Company File, From Anglo-Persian Oil to BP -