ANCHORAGE - BP Amoco PLC and Atlantic Richfield Co. today said they were moving ahead with their merger plans, putting pressure on the Federal Trade Commission to approve the deal or go to court to block it.
The companies said in a news release that they were ready to trigger a federal law that would force the FTC to decide within 20 days whether the $26.8 billion deal should be allowed to proceed. At the same time, they said they would continue their talks with the agency.
``During this 20-day period, there is still always the option of continued discussions with the FTC so we haven't ruled out the possibility of some agreement with the FTC,'' BP Amoco spokesman Thomas Koch said today.
Company officials would meet with the agency Friday, Koch said.
In addition to greater control of retail gas stations and refineries on the West Coast, the deal would give BP Amoco control of 70 percent of oil production on Alaska's North Slope and 72 percent of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
FTC staffers have reportedly recommended that the commission block the deal because it would consolidate Alaska oil production and could affect oil prices on the West Coast.
But BP Amoco and Arco executives say those concerns are unfounded.
``While the companies firmly believe the combination would enlarge rather than adversely affect competition, they have offered but failed to get FTC acceptance for a range of measures designed to meet the FTC's expressed concerns,'' the news release said.
BP Amoco officials say they think they've made enough concessions to maintain competition, including divestiture of some of the North Slope holdings.
``We've reached agreement with the state of Alaska, we've reached an agreement with the governor of California, we've had approval by the shareholders of both corporations,'' Koch said.
BP Amoco first triggered the 20-day deadline last November, but quickly reversed itself after Gov. Tony Knowles accused the company of not bargaining in good faith and urged the FTC to block the deal. Company officials then dismissed their move as a procedural detail and said they wanted to continue negotiations with the state and the FTC.
The company signed an agreement with the state in December, agreeing to give up majority ownership of the Kuparuk oil field, the nation's second largest field, as part of an agreement to win the state's support for the buyout.
The agreement with the state also requires BP Amoco to sell undeveloped acreage on the North Slope to another major oil producer, make North Slope natural gas available to developers, donate $6 million a year to the state university system and hire Alaskans.
``The governor is disappointed that discussion between BP Amoco and the FTC haven't resolved all the federal concerns,'' Knowles' spokesman Bob King said. ``The governor still strongly believes that the merger is in the best interests of the state.''
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