April 14th, 2011
07:03 PM GMT
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The BP shareholders’ meeting, held in London Thursday, fell almost a year after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
 
The explosion killed 11 men, released the biggest oil spill in U.S.history and cost the company tens of billions of dollars.

The men were not forgotten, with the deaths prompting emotional exchanges between BP’s executives, including its new chief executive Bob Dudley, and shareholders.

At one point, an audience member read a letter from Keith Jones, the father of Gordon Jones who had died on the rig. The message to BP executives: “You were rolling the dice with my son's life, and you lost."

The meeting came the same day BP announced a last minute deadline extension for its $16 billion share swap deal with Russian oil giant Rosneft. The deal – which would allow exploration into Russia’s Arctic shelf – has been met with hefty resistance from shareholders in TNK-BP, BP’s Russian partner. The deadline has now been extended from Thursday to May 16, 2011.

And so BP’s troubles continue, with hopes the Rosneft deal might have signalled a new start now dashed.

Howard Wheeldon, senior strategist at BGC Partners, says Deepwater and Rosneft should not be linked: One is a tragedy, the other is business.

Yet the Rosneft deal would potentially have marked Dudley as the right man to lead the company, after the gaffes of BP’s former chief executive Tony Hayward, widely criticized for his response to the spill.

Instead, the Rosneft deal has become bogged down in the spat with TNK-BP. It was temporarily blocked by a judge in London in February after court action from the opposing TNK-BP's shareholders.

Wheeldon calls the deal “very, very important” for BP in the long term. Indeed, as Dudley noted at Thursday’s meeting: "Russia is one of the world's most important sources of oil and gas, as well as a massive market. BP needs to be there."

Dudley also commented on the company’s plans to double its investment in exploration over the next few years. It will continue to explore in locations including Angola, Egypt, Azerbaijan and the Gulf of Mexico. It would test new provinces in Jordan, Brazil, the South China Sea and Australia. It wants to explore Russia.

But if the Rosneft deal fails, it will be another humiliation for a company still laden with the legacy of Deepwater.

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