Russian court rejects multi-billion dollar suits against BP

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A Siberian court on Friday rejected two multi-billion dollar suits filed against BP by minority shareholders in its Russian venture over a failed tie-up with state-held Rosneft, the claimant said.

The law firm representing the small group of shareholders said both the claim against two BP executives and another against the British company's Russian subsidiaries had been rejected by the Tyumen arbitration court.

"We will appeal the Tyumen region arbitration court ruling in accordance with the procedure established by law," lead attorney Dmitry Chepurenko said in a statement.

The announcement marks a Russian victory for BP after its attempt to jointly explore for oil in the Arctic with the country's biggest oil producer unravelled over a divisive boardroom dispute.

The deal eventually went to the US supermajor ExxonMobil.

The suits were filed by a tiny and previously unheralded group of Russian investors in the TNK-BP Holding company that got squeezed out of the Rosneft deal.

TNK-BP claimed that it had the right of first refusal on the Rosneft alliance and accused Rosneft of breaching the venture's shareholder agreement.

The first Tyumen claim of 87 billion rubles ($2.8 billion) was filed by several small stakeholders against BP executives Peter Charow and Richard Scott Sloan.

A separate claim against the BP subsidiaries was filed by the shareholder Andrei Prokhorov and was eventually raised to 409 billion rubles ($13.4 billion).

There was no immediate reaction to the decision from either BP or TNK-BP.

But Chepurenko said the ruling "demonstrates that Russia still has a long way to go before it meets international standards of corporate law."

© 2011 AFP

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