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Times Online: Shell and BP poised to enter Yukos auction

Reports in Moscow claim that both UK oil majors will go up against Rosneft for 500 former Yukos petrol stations

Steve Hawkes

Shell and BP are poised to go head-to-head in a controversial 7.7 billion rouble (£150 million) auction of more than 500 petrol stations in Russia, it emerged today.

Both UK oil and gas majors are set to submit bids on May 10 when the latest sell-off of assets formerly run by the Yukos empire takes place.

Kremlin-controlled oil giant Rosneft is also expected to bid for the 500 petrol stations, as well as Unitex, a little-known company with links to Gazprom.

In March, BP’s Russian joint venture TNK-BP lost out to Rosneft when it bid for a minority stake in the business formerly held by Yukos.

Analysts have claimed the Kremlin wants foreign firms to bid to lend the sell-off an air of respectability.

Two bidders have to take part for each of the auctions to proceed.

Italian energy groups Eni and Enel emerged victorious in the auction of a range of former Yukos oil and gas assets last month, but the two had already agreed to sell a majority stake in most of them to state-controlled gas giant Gazprom.

Shell refused to confirm the speculation but a spokesman in Russia said: “Russia is a strategic region for Shell’s growth both in the upstream and in the downstream.

“We are continually assessing opportunities for growth, including the retail sector.”

BP confirmed it had applied to Russia’s anti-monopoly commission as a first step to taking part.

TNK-BP already runs 1,600 petrol stations across Russia, with a handful operating under the BP brand mainly around Moscow.

Yukos is being split apart and sold off to raise the money for a back tax bill of $26 billion (£13 billion).

Yukos collapsed into bankruptcy last year after a campaign against its founder and fierce Kremlim critic, the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

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