POLITICAL tensions over BP’s deal with Russian state-owned Rosneft were played down yesterday by the UK government.
A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said the share swap was “a commercial deal between two companies”, and did not indicate a thaw in political relations between Britain and the Russian government.
He said: “The Prime Minister has made the point that our view is that there will be differences of opinion on specific issues between us and Russia, but there will also be areas where it is in our mutual interest to work together and we will do that.”
The deal had come in for strong criticism after several US congressmen, diplomats and environmental campaigners raised fears over BP’s environmental safety record in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the link with the Russian state.
David Cameron’s spokesman declined to comment on US concerns, but said he was unaware of any communication between the Prime Minister’s office and the White House about the deal.
BP chief executive Bob Dudley yesterday said the company notified the US government about the deal before it was announced but said it did not need US approval.
LAMBERT ENERGY ADVISORY
TEAMING up with the Russian government is not a typical job for London’s investment banks – so BP has instead turned to boutique consultancy Lambert Energy Advisory to work on its Rosneft venture.
The firm is run by Philip Lambert, an alumni of merchant bank Kleinwort Benson who started his own business in 1999 to offer strategic and financial advice to governments as well as oil and gas companies.
Lambert has gained a reputation for expertise in state-run oil firms in particular, though he has kept his firm small with less than a dozen employees.
He has worked with energy majors Shell, Petronas, Gazprom and Total in the past, but scoring the advisory contract with BP is seen as a coup among energy insiders.
BP’s long-time legal advisers at Linklaters are also on board to work on the venture, with Stephen Griffin in London and Grigory Gadzhiev in Moscow taking the lead.
Meanwhile, rival firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has moved to advise Rosneft, having previously advised BP during its defence against takeover bids at the height of the Gulf disaster.
A spokesperson for Freshfields yesterday said the firm continues to have a relationship with BP.
Sebastian Lawson in London and Sergei Diyachenko in Moscow are leading the team, assisted by Sam Brown and Alexey Tokovinin.
Securities law and market disclosure advice was given by partner Sarah Murphy and senior associate Doug Smith in London, alongside Vladislav Skvortsov in Moscow.