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Where next for TNK-BP?

Times Online
July 30, 2008

Where next for TNK-BP?

By its own admission, BP has but weeks to resolve its problems in Russia before management control of TNK-BP starts to slip from its grasp. For all its rhetoric about not being intimidated by AAR’s strong-arm tactics, the reality is that with Robert Dudley no longer in Moscow, BP has limited room to move and none of its options are palatable.

Legal action to recover lost earnings is mentioned by Tony Hayward as a possibility, but is likely to be an expensive process with no short-term benefits.

With relations between Britain and Russia at a low ebb, there seems to be little hope of a politically engineered solution.

It may be more fruitful for BP to exert whatever informal pressure it can to isolate AAR’s four oligarchs. Business associates of AAR include such unlikely figures as Lord Hurd of Westwell, the former Foreign Secretary, and Sir Julian Horn-Smith, a director of Lloyds TSB. As chairman of Goldman Sachs International, Peter Sutherland, BP’s chairman, has huge influence in banking circles. This could be a valuable weapon.

Suspending the dividend from TNK-BP is another way to get to them, although the oligarchs will hardly feel the pinch overnight.

Beyond this, BP can only try to reach a new deal, well aware that this is likely to be costly, that AAR is a far from reliable partner and that BP will be unable to have ownership of more than half of TNK-BP.

The other option would be for BP to cut its losses, sell its stake in TNK-BP and focus on its other activities in Russia, which include a venture with Rosneft and talks with Gazprom about co-developing the Kovytka field. Loss of its share of TNK-BP’s reserves would gall BP, but may be the only practical outcome.

The oligarchs apart, Gazprom seems the most obvious buyer. However, the state-controlled gas giant has huge investment ahead. Its willingness to spend on acquiring a stake in TNK-BP is uncertain – unless it could be tempted at a bargain price.

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One Comment

  1. ldd128 says:

    Tony has done nothing to enhance the BP stock price when oil is at record levels. He is a failure as a leader.

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