SOURCE: Rothman Research

Rothman Research

June 24, 2010 08:33 ET

Macondo's Curse -- From Fiction to Reality

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA--(Marketwire - June 24, 2010) -  www.rothmanresearch.com -- It has been over two months now that the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded costing the lives of 11 crew members and causing a massive ecological and economic nightmare. With ongoing oil gushing from a Macondo well 5,000 feet under water, the BP oil spill (as it has become more politically known) has dwarfed the 1989 spill in Alaska, which at the time was estimated to have leaked 260,000 barrels of oil into the ocean. The Alaskan ocean oil spill was the worst catastrophe of this kind to have affected U.S. maritime and coastal territories, until at the end of May 2010 the Gulf of Mexico's oil spill snatched the title with an estimated oil spill capacity of between 540,000 barrels to 1,080,000 barrels. To this day, the BP oil spill is still dominating the headlines around the world as political pressure, environmental concerns and uncertainties about containing the leakage still persists.

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BP, which acquired the Macondo prospect exploration rights last year, acts as the operator of the Macondo well with a majority of 65% interest. The company has been facing waves after waves of lawsuits from businesses, individuals and local governments affected by the spill. Additionally BP agreed to set up a $20 billion spill response fund which it will pay in installments of $1.25 billion in every subsequent quarter following the initial $3 billion and $2 billion which will be paid in the third and fourth quarter of 2010 respectively. Whilst BP remains the main villain for many in the Deepwater Horizon spill, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC), which acts as a 25% owner with a non-operated working interest, saw its rating downgraded by Moody's. The credit rating company taxed Anadarko with a downgrade as it believes the latter company might also be liable to contribute to the containment and clean-up costs and other financial responsibilities linked to the spill. Another offshore company that got served a downgrade from Moody's following the ongoing oil spill is ATP Oil & Gas Corp. (NASDAQ: ATPG). However, ATP was a victim of circumstances more than anything as compared to the proximity of Anadarko's link to the whole situation. ATP was booked for downgrade early this month due to the possible impact on its production as a result of a drilling suspension order issued by U.S secretary of the Interior at the end of May.

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However, in a turn of events on Tuesday a sense of relief was felt by all affected offshore operators in the Gulf of Mexico as New Orleans federal Judge Martin Feldman overruled the six-month deepwater drilling ban. The federal Judge also specified in another order that the U.S. government is prohibited to continue imposing this ban on offshore drilling companies as the impact on these companies would be disastrous. The political and legal battles promise to be long and potentially ugly. One thing is certain; the Macondo's curse is going to haunt the headlines for a long time.

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