Oil giant BP PLC (BP - Get Report) often touts the ongoing roll-off of the multibillion-dollar bills that it's been facing in recent years related to its massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but a look at the numbers shows that BP is still one of the most highly levered companies in Big Oil.
The company's so-called "Macondo Payments" (named for the Gulf of Mexico offshore oilfield where the accident happened) have not alleviated the larger balance-sheet problems that persist for the U.K.-based company. Despite paying off billions of dollars of spill-related liability, BOP still maintains nearly $77.5 billion in debt -- much of that still largely driven by the disaster.
It's also worth noting that BP's total long-term debts are three times as big as the company's short-term investments and cash portfolio. Add it all up and the oil company's net debt now stands at approximately $40 billion, according to FactSet. That's well above industry averages.
That said, BOP insists that its massive debt pile isn't a cause for panic for such a large oil company, especially given that many of its debts are due to fade as the spill expenses wind down.
"Our relative position on net debt and gearing is not that surprising given the $16 billion that was paid out over the last three years around Deepwater Horizon settlements," CFO Brian Gilvary explained in the company's fourth-quarter earnings call earlier this month. "It's the reason why our gearing is relatively high compared to maybe the peer set."
He added that the executive office is working to draw debt down into an even-more-manageable range by 2020, which will coincide with a decrease in Macondo payments to "only" around $1 billion:
The company is clearly confident in its ability to manage this debt given its dividend increases and persistently large stock-buyback programs.
And with its blowout earnings report earlier this month, there are signs this issue might finally be fading into the rear view mirror for many investors. After all, BP has pockets as deep as a Texas oil well:
Still, Wall Street will certainly be keeping an eye on BP's Macondo debts, which has been an albatross around the company's neck for almost a decade now.
Jim Cramer, who holds BP in his Action Alerts PLUS charitable trust, said Tuesday that the entire oil sector "has been so disappointing for us. Look, BP blew the numbers out and it's still not up. What a hard group!"
Cramer discussed BP further in an exclusive monthly video-conference call for members of his Action Alerts PLUS club. Click here to hear more.