New blow for BP as Russian office raided

Kasmira Jefford
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BAILIFFS and armed special forces stormed BP’s Moscow’s offices yesterday, just a day after the Kremlin rubbed salt into the oil giant’s wounds by signing a coveted Arctic exploration deal with US rival ExxonMobil.

BP was ordered to let bailiffs search through all documents by a court in Siberia, where Andrei Prokhorov, a minority shareholder in BP’s Russian joint venture TNK-BP, is suing two BP companies and two BP employees for £1.84bn.

A spokesperson for BP said the raid on the offices of BP EOC was “completely without merit”, adding that the company had no connection with the court case in Tyumen.

Tuesday’s deal between Exxon and Rosneft, Russsia’s state-owned oil explorer, marks a fresh blow for BP, which failed to seal a similar deal with Rosneft earlier this year.

TNK-BP won an injunction in February barring the deal, claiming that BP was obliged to pursue all its Russian ventures through TNK-BP.

“It was a mystery as to how BP could try and do [a deal] without the participation of TNK-BP,” said Iain Armstrong, an oil and gas analyst at Brewin Dolphin.

Andrew Bell, chief executive of the Witan Investment Trust, with 1.6 per cent of its holdings in BP, said the Exxon deal was an “embarrassing” reminder of BP’s own collapsed agreement but was now “an old event”.

Bell said there was unlikely to be mounting shareholder sentiment against BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley but added that the company needed to clarify its strategy. “People aren’t quite sure what the company’s strategy is. There is a range of things that could happen.”