BP faces legal action over Rosneft deal

Marion Dakers
RUSSIAN billionaires involved in BP’s Russian venture TNK-BP yesterday took legal action to block BP’s $16bn (£10bn) share-swap with Russia’s state-owned oil group Rosneft.

The four partners in TNK-BP, who operate through a group named Alfa-Access-Renova, claim that BP’s deal with Rosneft might breach earlier agreements that give TNK first refusal on any BP activity in Russia.

The injunction request in the High Court echoes earlier flare-ups between BP and its Russian investors, which led to chief executive Bob Dudley fleeing the country after his visa was not renewed in 2008.

BP is expected to fight the injunction at a hearing scheduled for 1 February.

The UK oil major said: “We are not in breach of the shareholder agreement. We have kept – and will keep – AAR informed of the situation.”

Spokespeople for AAR and TNK-BP both declined to comment when contacted by City A.M.

Dudley said at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday that BP will abide by all agreements with Russian partners. Igor Sechin, chairman of Rosneft and Russian’s Deputy Prime Minister, also played down the lawsuit, calling it a misunderstanding.

Elsewhere in Davos, US oil major ExxonMobil announced its $1bn (£628m) investment alongside Rosneft to explore the Black Sea region in a deepwater joint venture yesterday.

ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson said he expected the joint venture to be split 50/50 at the exploration stage then 66/33 in favour of Rosneft at the development stage.

BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, also at Davos, added: “We are being asked what has changed in Russia, why now all these deals are being signed. The regulations in the Russian oil and gas sector have changed considerably, offshore projects have been given preferences, normal conditions have been created.”