BP hit with new legal headache in Russia

BP faces yet more vexation from its Russian activities after minority shareholders in its TNK-BP joint venture launched an 87 billion-rouble (£1.8bn) damages claim yesterday.

The action is just the latest to follow the British oil giant's abortive attempts at a $10bn (£6.1bn) tie-up with Russia's Rosneft earlier this year. That move was blocked in the courts by BP's TNK-BP partner – the Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) consortium – on the grounds that it violated the joint venture's shareholder agreement, which specifies all investors' activities in Russia must be offered to the company.

The Rosneft deal may have collapsed, but the debacle is not yet over for BP. AAR is still pursuing the company, claiming damages of reportedly as much as $10bn. And earlier this week, BP launched a counterclaim, against Renova, over its holdings in other Russian oil and gas companies.

In the latest development yesterday, two claims were lodged by TNK-BP minority shareholders, led by Andrey Prokhorov, in a Russian Court of Arbitration. The claims assert that TNK-BP has suffered significant losses: first because managers in BP group must have been aware of the Rosneft talks but did not notify TNK-BP of theopportunity, and, second, because BP rejected subsequent TNK-BP suggestions of a joint deal.

The hearings will go ahead from September. But BP yesterday roundly rejected the claims. "We do not believe there is any legitimate basis whatsoever for such a claim," a spokesman for the company said. "If any such claim is advanced against BP or the directors of TNK-BP Holding, these will be vigorously defended."

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