BP’s Russia deal comes under fire

Marion Dakers
BP’S HISTORIC tie-in with Russia’s state oil company came under intense scrutiny yesterday, as politicians and businessmen piled in to examine the merits and dangers of the deal.

The share swap, announced late on Friday, sees BP hand a five per cent stake to Rosneft in exchange for a 9.5 per cent holding in the Russian firm and access to potentially lucrative oil fields in the Arctic Circle.

Industry insiders said yesterday it was unlikely that Russia would win a seat on the BP board in the deal.

However as BP embarks on an investor roadshow today to herald the deal’s value, some experts warned that the tie-in with an overseas company could prove problematic in light of the introduction of the UK Bribery Act in two months’ time.

“BP is one of the most experienced companies in the world when it comes to operating in Russia,” said a FTSE 100 director with experience in the region. “But it has done something pretty ballsy to team up with a Russian firm before these new rules come into force, the effects of which are completely untested.”

Meanwhile BP’s partner in its Russian TNK-BP venture, AAR, is trying to establish whether BP’s deal breaches its right of first refusal on BP’s Russian operations. BP investors will have their shares diluted.