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BP says chairman to step down

© AFP | Svanberg saw some "incredibly challenging" years at BP

LONDON (AFP) - 

British energy major BP said Thursday that chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg has decided to step down after a spell of almost eight years which included the devastating Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

The 65-year-old Swede "has informed the company's board of directors of his intention to retire as chairman", BP said in a statement. He will stay in the post until a replacement is found.

Svanberg became chairman in January 2010 -- shortly before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April of the same year in the Gulf of Mexico.

The blast killed ten men off the coast of Louisiana and caused 134 million gallons (507 million litres) of oil to spew into Gulf waters, sparking the worst environmental catastrophe in US history.

As chairman, Svanberg has also helped guide the company through a precipitous plunge in world oil prices.

"It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the BP board over the past eight years. I am proud of the achievements of the management and the company in that time," said Svanberg, who is one of Sweden's top business executives.

"The first couple of years were incredibly challenging for us all as we navigated an unusually complex corporate crisis.

"Through that turbulent period we stayed focused on saving and restoring the company. Today I can say with confidence that BP is back and ready for the future."

The total cost of the oil spill disaster to the company to date, including fines and compensation to businesses, stands at more than $63 billion (54 billion euros).

With the lion's share of the gigantic costs behind the group, BP announced in August that it returned to profit in the second quarter of this year.

"BP's comeback would not have been possible without the strong leadership and steadfast support of Carl-Henric and the board," added Chief Executive Bob Dudley.

"Together we were able to honour our commitments to the Gulf while rebuilding BP into a safer, stronger company.

"We devised a strategy to weather the downturn in the oil market while returning to growth."

Dudley himself took over from predecessor Tony Hayward in October 2010 in order to help restore the company's shattered reputation.

© 2017 AFP