BP's $3bn Russian court bill over tie-up failure

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The Independent Online

Oil major BP's woes in Russia deepened yesterday after a Siberian court landed it with a $3bn (£1.9bn) bill for damages over its failed tie-up with state-owned Rosneft in 2010.

The claim – immediately dismissed by the British firm as an "attempted corporate attack" – was brought by Andrei Prokhorov, a minority investor in a subsidiary of BP's Russian joint venture TNK-BP.

Mr Prokhorov claimed BP's attempt to create a Arctic exploration partnership with Rosneft last year had damaged the interests of the joint venture.

AAR, the quartet of ex-Soviet billionaires led by Mikhail Fridman which owns the other half of TNK-BP, sank the potential tie-up in the courts last year when it argued that the Rosneft move breached its shareholder agreement with BP.

The oligarchs also turned down a $32bn (£20.35bn) offer for their stake from BP and Rosneft.

The latest verdict comes weeks after BP gave up on its frosty relationship with AAR by hanging a "for sale" sign over its 50 per cent stake in TNK-BP. The exit comes despite the joint venture, Russia's third-biggest oil producer, producing $19bn in dividends since 2003 and accounting for a quarter of the company's global output. Rosneft this week confirmed that it was interested in buying BP's share of the business.

Mr Prokhorov's original bid for $13bn in damages was thrown out last November, but a court in the Siberian city of Tyumen called for a new hearing into the claim in June, leading to yesterday's ruling.

BP said the suit was based on "absurd assumptions" and intends to appeal. It added: "TNK-BP did not suffer and could not have suffered any damages; any arguments on the issue are pure speculation."

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