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Russian shareholders may exit TNK-BP: report

The Russian shareholders of TNK-BP are considering selling their stake in the Russian-British oil joint venture to the Russian state or BP’s partner state-controlled Rosneft, a report said Friday.

TNK-BP is jointly owned 50 percent by the British oil giant and 50 percent by its Russian shareholders — a consortium of three Russian businessmen including billionaire banker Mikhail Fridman.

The Vedomosti daily, quoting concurring sources close to TNK-BP, the Russian government and Rosneft, said no final agreements have been reached but the mechanics of a possible transaction have already been worked out.

If confirmed, such a move would mark a dramatic further development in BP’s new partnership with Rosneft which last month saw the two firms found a joint venture for Arctic exploration and take a cross holding.

Vedomosti said Rosneft could acquire a controlling stake in TNK-BP by also taking an additional 1 percent from BP itself to have the majority in the company.

It said that the Russian shareholders — known collectively as Alfa Access Renova (AAR) — would be seeking a premium to the current market value of TNK-BP, which is currently valued at up to $60 billion for the entire firm.

The report comes after The High Court in London on Tuesday granted a request by the Russian shareholders to halt the BP-Rosneft deal after they complained it violated the TNK-BP shareholder agreement.

Vedomosti said that the complaint filed by AAR could be a tactic aimed at getting better terms for its eventual sell-out to Russia or the Russian state.

TNK-BP almost imploded during a venomous shareholder conflict in 2008 but its co-owners then made peace and it is seen as one of the crown jewel assets of the British company.

Ironically, the BP-Rosneft deal was signed by BP’s new chief Robert Dudley — the same executive who was booted out of Russia in 2008 at the height of the row between Moscow and London over TNK-BP.