x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Former BP chief takes aim at oil supermajors

Tony Hayward returned to Abu Dhabi yesterday, three years after visiting the emirate as BP chief, in a very different guise – that of detractor of the oil giants, including his former paymaster.

Tony Hayward last visited Abu Dhabi three years ago as the head of BP, the accident-hit oil giant most recently renowned for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

He returned to the capital yesterday in a very different guise - that of detractor of the oil giants, including his former paymaster.

As the chief executive of the smaller and independent Genel Energy, Mr Hayward shared with an attentive crowd everything that he believes the world's biggest oil companies are doing wrong.

"The world needs the supermajors for their technological capacity and investment capacity, and yet as an investment class they elicit an enormous yawn," he said, addressing a hall packed with oil ministers and oilmen. "Growth has been elusive ... They spent too much of the last decade locked in risk mitigation."

He criticised the supermajors for being too slow to enter frontier regions such as Kurdistan and factor in a high oil price that has made more exploration possible.

"In my world, US$100 [a barrel] is the new norm, with the risk very much to the upside," he said.

Ambitious national oil companies, with the exception of Statoil and Chinese firms, would also sacrifice profits in favour of agendas "neither commercial nor global".

"Much has been made of the rise of the national oil companies and their transformation into truly international oil companies," said Mr Hayward. "The truth is it's more talk than action ... They won't be given the freedom or the arm's length by their governments."

Ruddy cheeked and relaxed, his opinion sought from all sides, he was a different man to the one reviled by many Americans while his company's crude gushed into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

"Thank you very much for allowing me to finish my sentences, in contrast to some of my appearances a few years ago," he joked to the audience, in his only remark alluding to the disaster.