Dudley says BP to pay dividends again soon

BBC business editor Robert Peston interviews BP's new boss

It's a new safety-first era for BP, under its quietly spoken new American boss, Bob Dudley.

He takes over as chief executive at midnight tonight. And in an exclusive interview with me, he said that controlling risks will henceforth be at the heart of everything BP does.

In fact his very first act, now that he holds the levers of power, is to create a new risk-and-safety division, which will embed safety officers in every nook and cranny of BP's vast global organisation.

BP might become slightly less vast and sprawling on his watch, as it sells off assets to meet the £20bn-odd costs of clearing up after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

But he insisted that he was determined that BP should continue to have a continued presence in the US, even though its name has been something slightly worse than mud there since the polluting of the Gulf of Mexico.

As for BP's long-suffering shareholders, he had good news for them: he is hopeful that the company will resume dividend payments early in the new year. "I believe we will get there," he said.

Whether BP will be able to afford payments on the scale of the £6.67bn it shelled out in 2009: well, that's less clear.

But given the dependence of most British pension funds on income from what was the UK's biggest dividend payer, it will be huge progress if it pays anything commensurate with its £80bn market value.

You can keep up with the latest from business editor Robert Peston by visiting his blog on the BBC News website.

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