Business

TNK-BP pondering role in BP-Rosneft Arctic oil deal

Oil tanker filling up at the Rosneft Arctic port facility at Arkhangelsk
Image caption TNK-BP's Russian shareholders have objected to BP's Arctic deal with state-owned Rosneft

Anglo-Russian oil joint venture TNK-BP is pondering a possible role in its UK parent's Arctic exploration deal with state-owned Rosneft.

The news comes after TNK-BP's Russian shareholders won a London court injunction to block the Arctic deal.

The billionaire co-owners, including Alfa Group's Mikhail Fridman, said BP's deal broke their shareholder agreement.

TNK-BP's board will mull its options on 18 February, which may include an exploration role and a share swap.

As part of its Arctic deal with Rosneft, BP has agreed a $16bn (£9.9bn) share exchange with the Russian government oil company.

That, as well as the planned offshore exploration, is now on hold pending arbitration in Sweden of BP's dispute with its Russian partners in TNK-BP, due to take place in the week of 7 March.

The Russian shareholders claim that BP broke an agreement to inform them of other Russian oil business.

It appears that now TNK-BP's management has been invited to come up with a role for the firm in a bid to placate its Russian owners.

"Based on the documents presented to the TNK-BP [management] by BP concerning its strategic alliance with Rosneft, management informed the board of its potential interest in participating in the alliance," said the joint venture company in a statement.

"The board's discussion of this opportunity was preliminary in nature, and it was agreed to continue the discussion."

The next step will be the hiring of an outside consultant to put together a proposal for the firm's independent directors - who include former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder - according to the Reuters news agency.

The board is also expected to discuss whether to suspend the quarterly dividend, so that profits can be ploughed into building the company up to compete with the Arctic venture.

The dividend, which equals 40% of the companies earnings and is paid out to BP and the Russian co-investors, is also said to be a contractual requirement under the shareholder agreement.

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