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    BP Set to Make Moves

    Cuts in the chemicals division and Asian market expected by the end of the year.


    BP Plc, operator of approximately 4,000 convenience stores in the United States, plans to take the axe again to its trimmed-down global chemicals division with more than 1,000 job cuts.

    Chief Executive John Browne has promised investors he will keep delivering double-digit earnings growth from his integrated oil, gas and petrochemicals group, the Associated Press reported.

    But despite a stream of asset sales and cost cuts in recent years, low prices for petrochemical products and chronic industry overcapacity have made the chemicals division a drag on that goal, the report said.

    A BP spokesman declined to comment.

    BP's chemicals division delivered just $9 million profit in the second quarter, when the whole group's total replacement cost net profit was $3.03 billion.

    BP's rival Shell recently completed an extensive chemicals divestment and cost-cutting programme that has sliced 40 percent off its chemicals cost base since the end of 1998.

    In other news, BP said it would withdraw from the Japanese petroleum retail business. BP Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of BP Plc, said it plans to sell all 21 of its convenience stores, a move that will signify the British petroleum titan's withdrawal from the Japanese gas retail market.

    BP Japan said it would sell the 21 retail units to Japanese gasoline wholesalers or trading houses, possibly by the year-end, it said. The company, which had originally envisioned boosting the number of its affiliated gas filling stations in Japan to up to 300, followed a strategy of setting up its gas stations adjacent to shopping malls.

    The relatively large capital outlay policy of installing four to five self-service gas pumps and two car washers per station, equipped with solar ray power-generation panels, appears to have sapped its profitability amid the anemic state of the Japanese economy, the report said.

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