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BP weighs bringing in partners to solar business, says CEO

FILE PHOTO: Abu Dhabi International Progressive Energy Congress (ADIPEC)

By Ron Bousso and Andres Gonzalez

LONDON (Reuters) - BP is considering bringing in partners to solar developer Lightsource BP to help boost returns from the fast-growing business, CEO Murray Auchincloss said on Tuesday.

BP last November announced it will take full ownership of Lightsource BP (LSBP), buying the remaining 50% stake in the joint venture for $322 million as part of the British oil giant's drive to build up its renewable energy capacity.

BP has held talks with companies to come in as partners in its solar business once the LSBP deal closes, probably in mid-year, Auchincloss told Reuters after the company reported an annual profit of $14 billion in 2023.

"It was a really opportunistic moment for us to take control of 100% (of LSBP). We will repackage the investment, we'll bring in partners," Auchincloss said.

"We're in conversations with companies, but I haven't made up my mind about that yet," he said when asked about bringing in partners.

BP has been under pressure from investors to show it can make strong returns from its renewable energy businesses which are part of its strategy to reduce oil production by 25% from 2019 levels by 2030 to 2 million barrels per day.

LSBP earns returns in the mid-teens, which is competitive with the oil and gas business, Auchincloss said.

BP also plans to eventually bring in partners to its offshore wind projects, Auchincloss added.

London-based LSBP was founded in 2010 by its Chief Executive officer Nick Boyle, who holds the majority of the outstanding 50% stake, and is today one of the world's top developers of solar photovoltaic projects.

BP acquired in 2017 a 43% stake in Lightsource for $200 million and increased its interest to 50% two years later.

Since its founding, LSBP has expanded from operating in three countries to 19, developed 8.4 gigawatt of solar capacity and built a 61 gigawatt development pipeline. It has over 1,200 personnel.

(Reporting by Ron Bousso; editing by David Evans)