BP’s Russian partner offers hope of a deal

City A.M. Reporter
OIL giant BP yesterday responded positively to suggestions that it might be able to negotiate its way out of an impasse in Russia with its partners TNK.

According to an interview with the BBC, one of the AAR oligarchs involved in the TNK joint venture with BP said yesterday that a sale of TNK’s 50 per cent shareholding in the venture was a “possibility.”

Victor Vekselberg said: “Of course it can happen, for sure. If it will be [an] interesting proposal for us according to our understanding of (the) valuation of this company.”

BP in collaboration with Rosneft would dearly love to buy AAR’s half share in TNK-BP. But their offer of $27bn (£16.4bn) for 50 per cent of TNK-BP, which values the whole of TNK-BP at $54bn, was rejected earlier this month.

It is not clear whether BP would be prepared to increase this offer to a level that would be accepted by its partners in BP-TNK, but yesterday’s interview represents the first acknowledgement that a negotiated settlement remains possible.

BP insiders said they were pleased to see the comments from Vekslberg because for weeks they have been sure that their Russian partners were keen to be bought but this position had been denied.

BP’s deal with AAR is in tatters because of its proposed share swap with Rosneft.

August 2003
BP signs a $7bn (£4.3bn) joint venture deal with Russian oil firm TNK. The new entity is 50 per cent owned by BP and 50 per cent owned by a group of Russia-connected investors: Alfa Group, Access Industries and Renova (AAR).

May 2008
Then TNK-BP?chief executive Bob?Dudley reveals a split between BP and its Russian partners. The Russian’s attack him for his comments and call for him to resign.

June 2008
TNK-BP's Russian shareholders threaten BP with legal action to strip BP-nominated directors of their powers in TNK-BP. The row centres on foreign staff working in Russia and a supposed lack of influence held by the Russian shareholders.

December 2008
Dudley steps down as TNK-BP chief executive.

January 2009
BP cedes power to AAR, leaving it without control of board appointments.

January 2011
BP and Rosneft agree to a $16bn share swap to jointly explore for offshore oil and gas in the Russian Arctic.

March 2011
A Stockholm tribunal blocks the BP-Rosneft deal after AAR wins a temporary injunction.