BP and oligarchs in arbitration hearing

Kasmira Jefford
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BP faced an arbitration hearing yesterday with its billionaire partners in the Russian joint venture TNK-BP, who are claiming damages against the oil giant for breaching a shareholder pact.

BP, which has refuted the claims, prompted the spat with the consortium known as Alfa Access Renova (AAR) by agreeing a share swap and Arctic exploration deal with Russian-state-controlled Rosneft earlier this year.

AAR, which owns half of oil company TNK-BP, secured a court injunction that blocked the deal, which finally collapsed in May when the four oligarchs led by Mikhail Fridman refused a $32bn (£20.40bn) buyout offer for their TNK-BP stake from BP and Rosneft.

Now AAR is asking a Stockholm-based tribunal to rule on whether the BP-Rosneft alliance breached an exclusivity clause in the shareholder pact, which grants TNK-BP first right of refusal to any new energy deals in Russia.

Meanwhile, minority shareholders in TNK-BP, with whom AAR denies any relationship, have filed a separate lawsuit in a Russian court seeking 154.3bn roubles (£3.1 bn) of damages over the oil group’s failed attempt to partner with Rosneft.

BP, which is calling for the case to be dismissed, called the claims were “absurd and completely baseless.”

Both AAR and BP declined to comment on the arbitration hearing, whose proceedings are confidential.

In a separate development, BP has put on ice talks on a deal to sponsor a high-tech hub championed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and chaired by Viktor Vekselberg, a TNK-BP shareholder, according to the Russian daily business paper Kommersant.

The deal was due to have taken place during Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Moscow earlier this month but BP pulled out at the last minute, the newspaper said.

A spokesperson for BP said the firm “had not walked away” from the project but its future depended on the agreement of certain details with the parties involved.