BP's Russian partners restart action over Rosneft deal

BP's oligarch co-owners in the Russian joint venture TNK-BP have restarted proceedings aimed at securing a ruling that BP broke their shareholders' agreement – a ruling that could make BP liable for billions of dollars in damages.

AAR, the consortium representing the Russian billionaires, including Mikhail Fridman, is arguing that a planned share swap and Arctic exploration venture between BP and the Kremlin-controlled Rosneft broke the TNK-BP shareholder agreement which obliges BP to use TNK-BP as its primary vehicle for investment in Russia. The planned tie-up collapsed in May, in the face of AAR's opposition.

AAR is now claiming BP's actions cost TNK-BP between $5bn (£3bn) and $10bn in lost opportunities, by not executing the deal through TNK-BP, and because the collapse poisoned TNK-BP's relationship with Rosneft, which could cost it future deals.

The Russian side believes one way out could be for BP to sell AAR its stake in TNK-BP.

"The offer to buy them out is still on the table," said a source close to the Russian side, adding that BP had rejected an offer earlier this year of $25bn for its half-share in TNK-BP.

A BP spokesman declined to comment on the arbitration but said the company had no plans to sell out of TNK-BP. Company insiders dismissed AAR's claims, saying TNK-BP had not suffered any losses.