Gulf Oil Spill: $32 Billion, For Now

BP said today that it's taking a charge of $32.2 billion to pay for the Gulf oil spill. And, the company suggested, it could ultimately wind up on the hook for more.

The charge includes the costs associated with the spill to date (including those incurred by the federal government), the $20 billion escrow fund that was already announced and "future costs which can be estimated reliably at this time."

The company plans to sell $30 billion in assets (largely oil and gas fields) to raise cash. That represents about a tenth of its assets, the WSJ says.

BP suggested it could ultimately have to pay more than $32 billion — if it fails to permanently stop the flow of oil next month; if it is found to have been grossly negligent; if the estimates for the flow rate were way off; or if the company has to pay significant fines and penalties other than those related to the Clean Water Act.

To put all these numbers in context: The company reported $6.2 billion in profit in the first quarter of this year, before the spill occurred. For the second quarter, the company reported a loss of $17 billion, largely due to costs associated with the spill.

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