BP announces plans to sell stake in TNK-BP

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BP has announced that it is going to try to sell its stake in the TNK-BP Russian oil joint venture.

In a short statement, the oil company said it had received "unsolicited indications of interest" in acquiring its shares.

BP has informed the other shareholder in TNK-BP, Alfa Access Renova, that it plans to pursue a sale.

It warned that there was no guarantee that such a transaction would take place.

BBC business editor Robert Peston said: "I understand that one of these approaches is from an unnamed Russian state business, which might offer cash and shares for the TNK-BP stake."

TNK-BP is a joint venture between BP and Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR), a group of Russian billionaires.

In its own statement, AAR said it had received BP's notification and added: "It has become apparent that the parity ownership structure has become inoperable given fundamental differences over strategy and governance between AAR and BP."

"AAR remains committed to the successful development of TNK-BP including potentially increasing its shareholding in the business."

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BP's Russian billionaire partners have a history of throwing large and disruptive spanners into BP's works”

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Earlier in the week one of the billionaire owners of AAR, Mikhail Fridman, announced he would be stepping down as TNK-BP's chief executive in 30 days "for personal reasons".

Relations between the shareholders have been particularly strained since BP had to abandon plans to form another joint venture with rival Russian oil firm Rosneft last year after AAR launched a legal challenge.

BP shares opened more than 4% higher in London before falling back to be up by 2.5% in lunchtime trade.

On Thursday, Mr Fridman warned that one of the two partners needed to take full control of TNK-BP and that the joint venture would be paralysed until it did so.

"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 told the Kommersant business daily.

TNK-BP is Russia's third largest oil producer.

It was formed in 2003 when BP merged its Russian oil and gas assets with those of AAR.

The joint venture also has operations in Ukraine, Brazil, Venezuela and Vietnam.

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