Oil giant BP will likely agree to pay the U.S. Department of Justice $20-$25 billion (12-17 billion pounds) next month to settle all civil and criminal charges around the Deepwater Horizon rig blast and Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a leading industry analyst predicted on Thursday.
Martijn Rats, head of European oil research at Morgan Stanley said in a research note that he saw a 70-80 percent chance that the two sides would agree a deal sometime between BP's full year results on February 7, and the scheduled start of legal hearings in New Orleans on February 27.
BP sources have told Reuters that talks are ongoing with the Department of Justice about a possible settlement and that the London-based company's board has shifted to weekly meetings to discuss progress.
Chief Executive Bob Dudley has previously said BP would like to settle, although not at any price. When asked about the matter by reporters on Wednesday, he declined to make any comment, saying it was a sensitive time to be discussing it.
(Reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)