NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of BP (BP) - Get BP p.l.c. Sponsored ADR Report are down 1.51% to $40.56 after the state of California joined a whistle-blower lawsuit over claims that the oil and gas company overcharged the state by as much as $300 million for natural gas over almost a decade, lawyers for the plaintiff said in a case unsealed in San Francisco state court, Bloomberg reports.

The state and two of its university systems are pursuing the case along with a whistle-blower, former BP employee Christopher Schroen, according to a copy of the complaint forwarded by his attorneys, according to Bloomberg.

BP sold about $1.5 billion to $2 billion worth of natural gas to the programs from about 2004 to 2012, when Schroen was fired, according to the suit. The overcharges during that period were at least $150 million to $300 million, plaintiffs alleged.

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The lawsuit under California's False Claims Act seeks tripled damages, Bloomberg added.

TheStreet Recommends

Separately, TheStreet Ratings team rates BP PLC as a Hold with a ratings score of C+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate BP PLC (BP) a HOLD. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed--some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its reasonable valuation levels, good cash flow from operations and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including deteriorating net income, disappointing return on equity and poor profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $9,399.00 million or 48.43% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, BP PLC has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -2.53%.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.43, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Although the company had a strong debt-to-equity ratio, its quick ratio of 0.98 is somewhat weak and could be cause for future problems.
  • Return on equity has greatly decreased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of major weakness within the corporation. In comparison to the other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, BP PLC's return on equity is significantly below that of the industry average and is below that of the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for BP PLC is currently extremely low, coming in at 11.86%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 1.37% trails that of the industry average.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: BP Ratings Report

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