BP hit by fresh court fight over TNK-BP stake

Marion Dakers
OIL major BP is facing renewed investor pressure in Russia after a court reopened a $13bn (£8.5bn) lawsuit linked to its TNK-BP venture.

The Russian court said minority shareholders in TNK-BP can restart their fight over last year’s failed tie-in with oil explorer Rosneft.

The shareholders complained that BP’s £10bn plan to join forces with Rosneft had damaged TNK-BP, the British firm’s 50-50 joint venture in Russia with AAR.

The court case is a further headache for BP, which last week said it plans to get rid of its stake in TNK-BP after years of boardroom squabbles with the oligarchs behind the AAR vehicle.

BP insists that the disposal of its Russian partner will go ahead following “unsolicited indications of interest”, although AAR has already started sabre-ratting, claiming it could block a sale or use its right of first refusal to take full control of the company.

Under the shareholder agreement between BP and AAR, the Russian group has 135 days to buy out its partner, but this does not prevent BP from talking to other potential buyers.

Rosneft has denied rumours that it was behind the initial approach, with new chairman Igor Sechin arguing that the firm “never thought about it” but could consider a bid.

The firm yesterday snapped up its fourth former BP executive in recent weeks. Sources close to Rosneft said Didier Casimiro, who worked for several years at TNK-BP, joined recently to run downstream operations.

BP establishes a $7bn Russian joint venture named TNK-BP. Mikhail Fridman, Len Blavatnik and Viktor Vekselberg, the oligarchs whose firms make up AAR, own 50 per cent of the new firm.

MARCH 2008
Russian police raid the offices of BP and TNK-BP in Moscow, prompting speculation that the Kremlin wants to buy out the Russian billionaires.

MAY 2009
Acrimony flares up again as AAR puts up its own candidate, Maxim Barsky, to replace Fridman as chief executive. Fridman is later kept on for at least two more years.

BP unveils £10bn deal with Russian oil firm Rosneft to explore the Arctic, only to be scuppered by a lawsuit brought by AAR.

28 MAY 2012
Fridman quits as chief executive, in a sign of a worsening boardroom split.

1 JUNE 2012
BP puts its stake in TNK-BP up for sale.