BP shares hit by downgrade, manslaughter report

LONDON (Reuters) - Shares in oil giant BP <BP.L> fell over 1.5 percent on Tuesday after an analyst downgrade and a media report that the company's managers may face manslaughter charges following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Brokerage Collins Stewart downgraded the oil major to "sell" from "hold," partly due to the spat between the company and its oligarch partners in its Russian joint venture TNK-BP <TNBP.MM>, traders said.

Also, federal prosecutors are considering whether to pursue manslaughter charges against BP managers for decisions made before the explosion on the rig that killed 11 workers and caused the biggest offshore spill in U.S. history, a report from Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter.

BP has admitted mistakes in the run-up to the rig blast but has denied accusations that it was "grossly negligent," a charge that could add tens of billions to the final bill it pays for the disaster.

Manslaughter charges would imply a heightened degree of culpability on the part of BP and suggests the U.S. authorities may press for a gross negligence charge.

BP shares traded down 1.5 percent at 0834 GMT (4:34 a.m. ET), against a 0.8 percent drop in the STOXX Europe 600 Oil and Gas index <.SXEP>.

(Reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Erica Billingham)