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Nightmare start for BP chairman Svanberg

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15:04 CEST+02:00
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a tough start for Swedish BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, who started in January.

Money is flowing out of BP, with the company's stock price plummeting on the London Stock Exchange. However, the oil giant's new Swedish chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, has remained silent about the disaster.

According to Toby Odone, press officer at BP's headquarters in London, the former Ericsson CEO has so far not commented on the issue, adding it is unclear if he will do so in the future.

"I do not know. We have other executives who are involved in this," said Odone.

He added he does not know if Svanberg has visited or will visit the disaster area and declined to direct further queries.

"We are dealing with an oil spill right now and all our staff are working to clean up the oil as quickly as possible so that it will not harm the US coast," said Odone. "This is our top priority. The chairman is not a part of it."

The accident has proven to be a very tough start for Svanberg at his new job after taking over the reins at BP at the beginning of the year following his move from telecoms equipment maker Ericsson. Since last week's deadly explosion on a BP-operated oil rig, the company's stock market value has declined by about $25 billion (181 billion kronor), AP reported.

It is unlike that the spill will be expensive for BP, which had earlier said it would spend about $6 million a day to combat it. However, an analyst told Reuters that the final bill could climb to nearly $3.5 billion. In addition to the direct costs to contain and clean up the oil, BP also faces large fines in the wake of the disaster. The oil giant has already been sued by shrimpers in Louisiana and neighbouring Alabama on Wednesday and Thursday.

The appointment of Svanberg as president of BP last summer surprised many because of his lack of experience in the industry. Among the criticisms were that he is neither diplomatic nor an oil man.

However, the Swede is considerably better paid than his predecessor Peter Sutherland. According to BP's annual report, Svanberg's annual salary is £750,000 ($1.15 million). Sutherland received £600,000 last year. In addition, Svanberg received a £100,000 relocation allowance to move from Sweden to London.

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