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BP reports heavy annual loss in wake of oil spill

Energy company BP has reported its first annual loss in 18 years, after raising its estimate of the cost of cleaning up a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to almost 50 billion dollars. BP on Tuesday reported a shortfall of 4.9 billion dollars (3.6 billion euros) for 2010, and said it expected to lay out 40.9 billion dollars (29 billion euros) to pay for the oil leak.

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The company had previously estimated the cost of the disaster at 29 billion euros.

For 2009, BP reported profits of 10.1 billion euros. It hasn't made a full-year loss since 1992.

Nonetheless the company promised to resume payment of its quarterly shareholder dividend, which was suspended in the wake of last year's oil spill.

BP's share price collapsed in the wake of the disaster, which ruined hundreds of miles of coastline.

Chief executive Tony Hayward was forced to resign, and BP announced it would sell off assets worth up to 22 billion euros.

The company has already sold interests in Argentina, North America, Venezuela, Vietnam, Colombia and Egypt. On Tuesday BP said it would sell two major refineries in the United States, inlcuding its Texas City facility where 25 workers were kiled in an explosion in 2005.

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