BP To Sell Stake In Megabucks Russian Venture
BP has announced it is looking to sell its stake in its Russian joint venture, just days after the shock resignation of TNK-BP's chief executive.
The British energy giant said it intended to pursue a potential sale following "unsolicited indications of interest regarding the potential acquisition of its shareholding in TNK-BP".
Mikhail Fridman stepped down from the helm of TNK-BP on Monday, throwing one of BP's most profitable overseas businesses into turmoil.
The Russian tycoon, who has a 25% stake in the venture himself through one of the country's largest private investment firms Alpha Group, said tensions had been building between the partners since BP's failed attempt last year to form an Arctic alliance with the state-owned company Rosneft and that ultimately one would need to take full control.
Rosneft has not considered buying BP's stake in TNK-BP, said chief executive Igor Sechin.
Russia's third-largest oil producer, TNK-BP, is owned equally by BP and a consortium of billionaires acting under Alpha Access Renova (AAR) and was formed in 2003 when the two groups merged their Russian oil and gas assets.
"TNK-BP and BP are in the same businesses. So in the broad sense of the word, we are competitors," Mr Fridman told a Russian newspaper on Thursday.
"I would put it this way - this competition between us has stopped corresponding to the parties' interests. Either AAR or BP must ultimately have control over the company."
He added that AAR had been trying to get disputes settled by the appointment of independent directors to the board, but accused BP of delaying the process in case the new board members side with the Russian consortium.
BP's share in the joint-venture is worth £20bn. The decision to sell comes as a surprise, as it had previously expressed its commitment to saving the venture which is estimated to bring in over a quarter of the group's overall production as well as billions of dollars in annual dividends.
Oil analyst Malcolm Graham-Wood told Sky News BP's stake could be bought be A Russion oil firm, AAR themselves, or perhaps even a Chinese company.