By ROBERT BARR, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Shares in BP PLC hit their highest level in more than a year Monday in the wake of the oil company's announcement that it had reached a settlement with victims of the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
BP shares were up 1.5 percent at 504 pence in afternoon trading.
The company's share price earlier struck a high of 512 pence, its highest level since January 2011.
BP said Friday it expects to pay out at least $7.8 billion as part of the settlement and the money to come from the $20 billion compensation fund that it established.
"Although this news does not represent the end of the process for BP, it does provide increased visibility over its potential liability and significant progress toward resolving the issues," said Jonathan Jackson, head of equities at Killik & Co. in London.
BP made a provision of $40.9 billion for Gulf damage claims in its 2010 annual report, but booked a credit against that amount of $3.7 billion in 2011.
The settlement covers lawsuits brought by more than 100,000 fishermen who lost work, cleanup workers who suffered illness and others who claimed harm from the spill which erupted in April 2010.
BP still has to resolve claims by the U.S. government, Gulf states and its partners in the Deepwater Horizon project, in which pressure from a well a mile (1.6 kilometers) below the ocean's surface blew up a massive drilling rig, killing 11 men and spewing oil into the sea for nearly three months. Those claims from the government could add billions more to the company's costs, and BP has already paid out billions in cleanup costs and to compensate victims.
The main targets of litigation resulting from the explosion and spill were BP, Transocean, cement contractor Halliburton Co. and Cameron International, maker of the well's failed blowout preventer. BP, the majority owner of the well that blew out, was leasing the rig from Transocean.
The U.S. Justice Department sued some of the companies involved in the drilling project, seeking to recover billions of dollars for economic and environmental damage. The department opened a separate criminal investigation, which so far hasn't resulted in any charges.
The companies also sued each other, although some of those cases were settled last year.
In one of the pending lawsuits, BP has sued Transocean for at least $40 billion in damages. Trial preparations produced 72 million pages of documents and depositions from more than 300 witnesses. The trial also is designed to determine whether Transocean can limit what it pays those making claims under maritime law.
BP has repeatedly said it accepts some responsibility for the spill and will pay what it owes, while urging other companies to pay their share.
In September 2011, a team of U.S. Coast Guard officials and regulators issued a report placing ultimate responsibility for the spill on BP. The report found BP violated U.S. regulations, ignored crucial warnings and made bad decisions during the cementing of the well a mile (1,600 meters) beneath the Gulf of Mexico.
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