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Russians give BP fresh ultimatum

Russians give BP fresh ultimatum

By Russell Hotten, Industry Editor

Last Updated: 12:16am BST 10/09/2008




BP risks confrontation with another arm of the Russian government after the head of the natural resources ministry warned that the UK oil company must agree a gas field deal with Gazprom by the end of the year.

Yuri Trutnev said yesterday that the proposed deal, to give state-owned Gazprom a controlling stake in the giant Kovykta field in Siberia, must be completed or “we will have to interfere in this again”.

But last week BP chief executive Tony Hayward disclosed to The Daily Telegraph that plans for its Russian joint venture, TNK-BP, to sell the stake to Gazprom had “no traction”.

He said: “We had an outline agreement, but I don’t think they [Gazprom] want to do it.” Mr Hayward said there had been no serious talks for months, and none were planned. However, it is clear that some people within the Kremlin want the matter back on the agenda.

The situation over Kovykta must be “solved in the near future,” Mr Trutnev said. “Before the end of the year either the licence holder, or we, have to make a decision.”

BP and Gazprom had a preliminary deal for TNK-BP to sell its 62.8pc stake in Rusia Petroleum, which holds the Kovykta operating licence. Last year, the natural resources ministry accused TNK-BP of breaching its licence and threatened to withdraw it.

BP said yesterday that it did not want to add to Mr Hayward’s comments last week.

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