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News round up: BP, Greece, Credit ratings, Iran and General Motors.


Tony Hayward, BP plc's (LON:BP) chief executive during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, is in line to receive a share bonus worth an estimated £600,000 from his former employers, as a reward for the company's performance between 2009 and 2011.

According to BP's 2010 annual report, Hayward is eligible for an award of up to 755,512 shares, to vest in 2012, based on the company's performance over the three-year period. In 2011 its remuneration committee used its discretion to decide against awarding shares to any executive directors for the preceding three-year period "because of the seriousness of the Gulf of Mexico accident" - despite noting that BP had performed well against some of the criteria.

While BP's performance in 2009-11 is unlikely to trigger an award against most of the criteria its success increasing earnings-per-barrel in refining and marketing could see it rated highly compared to its rivals. Those eligible for the 2009-11 share scheme could then qualify for about a sixth of their possible awards. In Hayward's case, that would be about 125,000 shares - worth more than £600,000 at current price.

BP's remuneration committee could reduce the number of shares that vest this year for 2009-11 performance "in exceptional circumstances", but there has been speculation that BP is to resume bonus payments, writes the Telegraph.

Greece

Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos accused European leaders of "playing with fire" by trying to oust the beleaguered country from the eurozone amid fears they want to delay releasing the €130bn (£108bn) bail-out until after Greek elections in April. With less than five weeks to avert bankruptcy and yet more delays and demands from Berlin and Brussels, Mr Venizelos said: "In the euro area, there are plenty who don't want us anymore.

There are some playing with fire, domestically and abroad." His German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said he wanted to "help" Greece but would not "pour money into a bottomless pit". Greek president Carolos Papoulias said: "I do not accept having my country taunted by Mr Schaeuble, as a Greek I do not accept it. Who is Mr Schaeuble to taunt Greece?", The Telegraph reports.

Credit ratings

Moody's warned last night that it may cut the credit ratings of 17 global and 114 European financial institutions in another sign that the Eurozone debt crisis is spreading throughout the global financial system. It was reviewing the long-term ratings and standalone credit assessments of a range of banks, Moody's added. Markets were unaffected by the announcement. "Capital markets firms are confronting evolving challenges, such as more fragile funding conditions, wider credit spreads, increased regulatory burdens and more difficult operating conditions," the ratings agency said in a statement.

It said among 17 banks and securities firms with global capital markets operations, it might cut the long-term credit rating of UBS, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley by as much as three notches following the review. It said the guidance was indicative, The Telegraph writes.

Iran

The chances of conflict in the Middle East rose yesterday as Iran defiantly trumpeted its latest nuclear advances and new evidence emerged of its involvement in this week’s terrorist attacks on Israeli diplomats. The developments are likely to strengthen the hand of Israeli hawks who favour airstrikes within months to thwart Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons, although the Government in Tehran did offer to resume long-stalled negotiations yesterday.

President Ahmadinejad attended a televised ceremony to unveil Iran’s first domestically produced nuclear fuel rods for its research reactor. He said that Iran had added 3,000 state-of-the-art centrifuges to its Natanz facility, making 9,000 in total and tripling Iran’s ability to enrich uranium to 20% — one step short of weapons-grade material, The Times says.

General Motors

The business secretary, Vince Cable, met executives from General Motors last week to discuss the automotive group's UK operations amid speculation that 2,800 jobs are under threat at one of Britain's largest car factories. GM's European arm has become the subject of high-level political discussions as the world's largest car manufacturer prepares to announce heavy losses at its continental unit when it reports fourth-quarter results on Thursday.

GM has signaled to the government that it is losing patience with its stubbornly loss-making European operations, whose performance is in stark contrast to the rest of the group, with the Ellesmere Port plant in Merseyside and a factory in Bochum, Germany, reportedly being considered for closure, according to The Guardian.

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