BP ( BP) Chief Executive John Browne is accelerating his retirement plans and will step down from the British oil giant at the end of July.

The board of BP said Tony Hayward, currently the head of exploration and production, will succeed Browne.

Browne had originally been planning to stay with the company until the end of 2008. However, the company said Browne "decided that it would be in the company's interest to name a successor now in order to provide an orderly transition."

Hayward joined BP in 1982. He was appointed to the main board of BP in 2003.

Shares of BP were higher by $2.58, or 4.2%, at $64.17.

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