BP puts on ice $10 mln co-investment Russia project: report

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BP has put on ice a $10-million co-investment project for the Kremlin-led research and development hub following a bitter conflict with local partners in its Russian joint venture, a report said on Wednesday.

BP and Skolkovo Fund, which is headed by billionaire Viktor Vekselberg and implements the Kremlin's plan to build a research and development hub outside Moscow, had planned to co-invest into a three-year 6.7 million pound ($10.5 million) oil research project, Kommersant said, citing a source close to the talks.

The signing of the agreement, which would also include Russia's Boreskov Institute of Catalysis and Imperial College London, was to have taken place during British Prime Minister David Cameron's landmark visit to Moscow earlier this month but BP pulled out at the last minute, the newspaper said.

The move comes after BP's deal with Russian state-controlled oil firm Rosneft to form a joint venture for Arctic exploration collapsed after Russian shareholders in its Russian joint venture, TNK-BP, filed a complaint that the deal infringed their own shareholder pact with the British firm.

The shareholders are known as Alfa Access Renova (AAR) and include Vekselberg's Renova group.

Kommersant said that by stalling the project the British company wanted to make sure that its planned investment in Russia would not constitute an infringment of its current shareholder agreement thus turning the tables against AAR.

A source close to Skolkovo told Kommersant BP acted irrationally and probably wanted to put Vekselberg in an "awkward position."

The Arctic oil exploration deal has eventually been awarded to the US supergiant ExxonMobil while BP had its offices raided by bailiffs as part of a $3-billion court case by shareholders in its Russian holding.

BP's last-minute pullout from the research project would deal a blow to the government-led drive to establish the Skolkovo hub outside Moscow which President Dmitry Medvedev wants to turn into a Russian version of Silicon Valley.

© 2011 AFP

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