Why BP’s Arctic venture went sour

David Hellier
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LIGHTNING really has struck twice for Bob Dudley, BP’s beleaguered chief executive. Hounded out of Russia by the partners in BP’s joint venture project BP/TNK, of which he was head, Dudley went on to take the top job at BP following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Hailed as the man to take the oil giant forwards and tasked with the job of putting the Gulf of Mexico debacle behind it, Dudley has remarkably been knocked off his perch again by testy Russian oligarchs.

When BP first announced it planned a £10bn tie-up with Rosneft, which sits on some of the world’s largest untapped reserves in the Arctic, there was a sharp intake of breath in some of the City's investment banking rooms.

It wasn’t just the size of the deal that took the breath away but the fact that BP was undertaking the transaction without any of the mainstream advisers. There was no Credit Suisse, no Rothschild, no Bank of America Merrill Lynch or even a Goldman to navigate the route through those icy Russian waters. Instead BP chose a tried and tested adviser, Phillip Lambert from Lambert Energy.

Lambert is an expert on the world’s energy markets and a very talentedman but there must now be a feeling amongst some at BP that he couldhave done with additional gold-plated advice and assistance on what has proved to have been an extremely political and complicated project.

Sources say that Morgan Stanley’s massively experienced investment banker Simon Robey was called in to help with negotiations towards the end of the process, but wasn’t this a case of too little, too late?

On the central point of whether BP was in breach of its shareholder agreement with the oligarchs in the TNK joint venture when it struck its alternative deal with Rosneft, there was some amazement amongst many that BP had not gained consent from its TNK partners ahead of its proposed deal.

“Surely you would have thought that the Rosneft agreement would have included a guarantee about there being no conflict with a third party,” said one who attended the court proceedings that resulted in the deal being blocked initially.

Commodities trader and miner Glencore may be taking the whole thing to extremes by appointing 23 investment banks to manage its $11bn flotation, but surely BP could have done with the odd one or two more.

West Ham fans are fond of singing about blowing bubbles and having dreams but their proposed move to the Olympic stadium has always seemed to me to be a bit of a pipedream.

Not only has the club committed itself to keeping a running track between the field and the spectators at the stadium, to enable athletics events to be staged there, but there has always been the question of why Newham Council believes it is right to lend the Stadium Company up to £40m.

Now the Hammers have been relegated and the owners have sacked the manager and put star players up for sale. West Ham fans are a notably loyal lot but even if the entire 30,000 of them move over to Stratford the 60,000 capacity will rarely be tested and with that the economics will fail.. This is a dream that should fade and die.