Russian shareholders of TNK-BP are trying to block the strategic partnership of Rosneft and BP which is actively supported by the Russian and British authorities. AAR consortium of Mikhail Fridman, Leonard Blavatnik and Viktor Vekselberg challenged the deal in court, asking to suspend it as an interim measure. According to the sources of Kommersant, AAR is trying to increase its control over TNK-BP as well as preferences in its own deals with the British company.
A consortium of Russian shareholders of TNK-BP AAR (Alfa Group by Mikhail Fridman, Access by Leonard Blavatnik and Renova by Viktor Vekselberg) applied to the London court with a lawsuit requiring to suspend the course of transactions between BP and Rosneft on asset exchange and the creation of a joint venture to develop the Arctic shelf, yesterday source of Kommersant who is familiar with the situation said. The court session will be held on February 1. This information was confirmed in the AAR. In BP's Russian office clarified that the company had already received a notice from the court about the claim. TNK-BP declined to comment on the situation.
We are talking about agreements, which should form the basis of strategic partnership of BP and Rosneft, warmly supported by the Russian authorities and the UK. The documents were signed on January 21. The companies agreed to exchange shares: BP will give 5% of their shares for 9.5% of Rosneft's (stakes are valued at $ 7.8 billion). Also, partners will jointly develop the East Prinovozemelskie sites on the Kara Sea shelf. Before the signing the contract Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised the companies to create "the most favorable tax and regulatory regime for the implementation of a project to develop the Arctic shelf."
Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Rosneft and BP signed a framework cooperation agreement which provides for a number of additional initiatives, including a joint plan for projects in third countries, and mechanisms to accelerate the technological cooperation, joint programs, sharing experiences and learning”. Yesterday First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov called the project great.
However, the deal provoked outrage of the current Russian partner of BP - a consortium AAR (the company owned TNK-BP on an equal footing). They announced immediately that an agreement by BP and Rosneft can conflict the agreement of shareholders of TNK-BP. According to the head of AAR, Stan Polovtsi, it is stated in the agreement that the partners implement all the projects in Russia and Ukraine only through TNK-BP. All exceptions must be approved by the board of directors of the company. The deal with Rosneft was not imposed on board. A source close to TNK-BP, added that it could have replaced BP in joint venture on the Arctic shelf. Interlocutor of Kommersant said that having no visa by board of directors, TNK-BP can be portfolio investors only in oil and gas projects in Russia with stakes of less than 20%. "Even though BP will receive only 9.5% in Rosneft this is clearly a strategic investment, which is evident from official statements", the source of Kommersant explains.
A source familiar with the details of the agreement with the shareholders of TNK-BP believes that BP has almost no chance to make out their case in court. "However, BP feels support by the Russian authorities, who have made it clear that it is the British company which will be the partner with “Rosneft", a source of Kommersant added. Lawyer ofACG IEF-Audit, Ivan Belov, said that AAR can actually prolong the deal. "Such trials can last for a long time, and given that the case will be in London, it might take six months or a year," the lawyer said.
BP claims that they did inform the partners about negotiations with Rosneft. The day before they signed agreements with Rosneft, the head of BP Robert Dudley actually met with Mikhail Fridman, the sources of Kommersant confirmed, but no strategic alliance was discussed. "It was known that negotiations between BP and Rosneft had lasted from 2006, one of the interlocutors of Kommersant says. But they kept saying in BP that nothing specific had been known." On Tuesday, Robert Dudley, said that all obligations to the AAR are being performed.
Russian authorities continue to openly support the BP and Rosneft. The head of the board of directors of Rosneft, the Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, said that he had heard about the "misunderstanding". "But it can not refer to Rosneft, the officer assured. We have consulted with BP - they believe that they are acting within the law. We do not see any problems." A source close to Rosneft, said that "the behavior of the AAR is to put pressure on BP."
Kommersant № 14 (4555) on 01/28/2011