Simon English: Vladimir Putin's approach is good news for BP – and Britain


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The Independent Online

Outlook According to legend, the story goes like this: Vladimir Putin decides to put the past behind him and embark on a fresh, pro-business strategy (there will still be corruption, of course, this is Russia).

He calls his feuding oligarchs to a knock-your-heads-together meeting, and tells them this: "You can keep all that stuff you've stolen, provided you follow two rules: Don't steal any more. And don't interfere in politics."

Even if this meeting never happened, that does seem to have been his approach.

For BP, this seems to have been mostly good news. Its TNK-BP joint venture is now key to the future success of the entire business, a company that is going to be key to Britain's energy needs and its pension funds for many decades.

On Monday, Mr Putin was inaugurated again as president and folk inside BP will be looking at whether he is going to continue to open up the oil and gas sector for further exploration by foreign outfits, or return to a more nationalist approach.

If it's the former, that looks like a real result.

Russia has now overtaken Saudi Arabia as the world's No 1 oil producer and the opportunities in the energy sector for companies like BP will be huge.

The country is also looking to de-regulate its public and private sector pensions industry, releasing billions of pounds for investment outside of the country. With business relations between the UK and Russia getting stronger, we're well positioned to benefit. Given the economic state we're in, this could be more than merely useful.

For BP, Mr Putin's victory is probably a good thing. They know him and he knows them.

He has probably also noticed that in the 10 years since its inception TNK-BP has paid something like $160bn (£99bn) in taxes. Handy.

UK pension funds might also have noticed that the venture makes vast profits for BP, large chunks of which are paid in dividends.

If you feel like taking some sort of noble stand against BP for whatever reason (global warming, say), you have to refuse any of this money that goes into your pension pot.