BP wins key legal cases in Russia

A Russian court threw out two potentially debilitating multibillion dollar lawsuits against BP yesterday, handing the oil giant a key victory in the legal quagmire around its failed attempt to strike a joint Arctic venture with Rosneft.

A judge in the Siberian oil town of Tyumen rejected the suits brought by Andrey Prokhorov, a minority shareholder in a subsidiary of TNK-BP, a joint venture between BP and the AAR consortium of four Soviet-born billionaires.

AAR blocked BP's deal with Rosneft earlier this year because it contravened an agreement between the joint venture partners that the British company would give TNK-BP first refusal on any business opportunities in Russia.

Mr Prokhorov was seeking $13bn (£8bn) from BP and $2.8bn from two BP nominees on the board of the joint venture's holding company. He alleged that TNK-BP suffered financial losses because it had been excluded from BP's planned alliance with Rosneft.

Konstantin Lukoyanov, a BP lawyer, said: "None of the grounds for the lawsuits was proved in court."

Jeremy Huck, the head of BP Russia, added: "We are pleased with the court's decision to reject the groundless claims ... I also believe the decision is a positive contribution to the investment climate in Russia."

The ruling does not end all the legal threats hanging over the failed alliance with Rosneft, since the Russian side of its TNK-BP local partnership is still pursuing action in Stockholm. Furthermore, Mr Prokhorov's lawyers said they would appeal the ruling, saying they were given less than two hours to state their case on Friday.

Nonetheless, investors welcomed the news, as BP's shares rose 2 per cent.

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