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TNK-BP bids for stake in Sibir

Financial Times

By Catherine Belton in Moscow

Published: April 23 2009 03:00 | Last updated: April 23 2009 03:00

TNK-BP, the Russian oil venture half owned by BP, is launching a bid for a significant minority stake in Sibir Energy, the Aim-listed energy group dogged by corporate governance issues.

Credit Suisse yesterday announced it had launched a book build to buy minority shares in Sibir Energy for 430p per share – a 2.5 times premium to the last closing price – on behalf of TNK-BP.

The bank said books would close today and that it had not yet reached any agreement with Sibir’s controlling shareholders.

Analysts said it was not yet clear whether TNK-BP would end up as the controlling shareholder of Sibir, with state-controlled energy majors Rosneft and Gazprom Neft also tipped as potential buyers.

“One can’t exclude that negotiations in respect to the controlling stake are continuing. This could just be the beginning of the bidding process,” said Steven Dashevsky, head of research at UniCredit Moscow.

“It is entirely possible that the ultimate owner of Sibir will be one of the state-owned companies.”

Sibir said it had not been approached by TNK-BP but had received an informal offer from another party. “Discussions with that party are at a very preliminary stage and there can be no guarantee that an offer for Sibir will be forthcoming.”

Rosneft declined to comment, as did TNK-BP, citing legal considerations.

However, David Peattie, BP’s senior executive for Russia, said: “We are clearly behind TNK-BP in this and the unanimous board vote shows great alignment in support of TNK-BP investment in quality Russian assets.”

TNK-BP’s bid is the latest twist for Sibir Energy, a mid-sized producer that has been racked by corporate governance concerns involving Shalva Tchigirinsky, its main owner and founder.

Its shares were suspended in February after it revealed it had lent $325m to Mr Tchigirinsky, who owns 23.5 per cent of the company and is battling to save his property empire in the credit crisis.

The sum was $210m more than it had previously acknowledged and has led to high court action by the company against Mr Tchigirinsky and Henry Cameron, its former chief executive.

Sibir owns a 50 per cent stake in a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell to develop one of Russia’s most promising green fields, Salym, and it runs the Moscow refinery.

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