BP boss could be in line for special bonus of up to £11.4m

Firm set for clash with investors over possible payout to Bernard Looney from three-year share award plan

BP is set for a clash with investors after it emerged that its chief executive could be in line for a special bonus of up to £11.4m. The payment, in shares, would be on top of his £1.38m salary and annual bonus for 2022.

Strong growth in BP’s share price means Bernard Looney is set for a multimillion-pound payout from a three-year share award plan set up in 2020, when countries around the world were in lockdown and the company was cutting jobs amid a global collapse in demand for oil.

The picture now is very different: this month BP announced that its annual profits had more than doubled to $28bn (£23bn) after a sharp increase in gas prices linked to the Russia-Ukraine war. Its share price has now risen above £5.50.

BP has been consulting investors in the run-up to the publication of its annual report in early March, in which Looney’s remuneration will be confirmed. The company has previously acknowledged that some shareholders had talked about the need to improve transparency on executive pay.

BP’s Bernard Looney
The special bonus for Bernard Looney would be on top of his £1.38m salary and annual bonus for 2022. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

One leading shareholder told the Sunday Times, which first reported the potential bonus, that payouts towards the top of the range offered by the incentive scheme would amount to “quite a blatant grab” given the rally in oil and gas prices.

A row about executive pay would add to the pressure on BP, which along with players such as Shell is facing renewed calls for a toughened windfall tax as oil companies reap rewards from higher gas prices while many households and businesses struggle with a sharp rise in energy bills.

Charlie Kronick, a senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “These bumper bonuses would be a slap in the face for millions of UK people struggling with their bills and communities around the world reeling from the climate crisis … Instead of being stuffed in the pockets of shareholders and company bosses, all this extra cash should be redirected towards public goods, whether it’s insulating UK homes or supporting communities suffering the consequences of the oil industry’s carbon pollution.”

BP’s share plan runs over three years, and measures against a range of criteria including comparisons with shareholder returns at similar companies, return on capital and progress on emissions reductions. Looney is entitled to a maximum of 500% of his salary.

BP’s last annual report stated that the scheme granted Looney a maximum of 2,076,677 performance shares with a face value at the time of just under £6.4m, based on an August 2020 share price of £3.08.

However, BP’s share price closed at £5.51 on Friday. Based on that price and assuming the 2020-22 share plan paid out in full, Looney would receive a little over £11.4m.

Looney’s total pay ballooned to almost £4.5m in 2021, with his £1.3m salary boosted by £2.4m in annual bonuses based on financial performance, plus £493,000 in performance shares from a previous scheme. BP introduces a new three-year scheme annually, so that its executives can receive share awards every year.

A spokesperson for BP declined to comment on the specific issues relating to Looney’s pay, saying: “The full details of directors’ pay will be included in the annual report, which will be published in the first half of March.”


Rupert Jones

The GuardianTramp

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