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FACTDROP: Siberian court rescinds order for BP raid


Siberian court rescinds order for BP raid

Πηγή: FT
By Catherine Belton and Elizabeth Rigby
September 13, 2011

BP has won breathing space in the legal campaign being waged against it by minority shareholders in TNK-BP, its Russian oil venture, after a Siberian court cancelled an order that allowed an armed raid on its Moscow offices.

The Russian court on Tuesday rescinded the order that authorised the two-day raid on BP’s offices last month, meaning that Russian bailiffs can no longer gain access to the documents they gathered during the search, the UK oil group said.

The court decision comes a day after Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, visited Russia as part of a business delegation with David Cameron, UK prime minister. Mr Dudley met Dmitry Medvedev, Russian president, at a business lunch hosted by the two leaders.

One person close to BP said that the visit had been “very encouraging” and added that the reaffirmation of more normal diplomatic relations between London and Moscow could only help BP’s fortunes in Russia.

In a statement, BP said: “According to today’s ruling, enforcement procedures against BP EOC which led to searches ... in BP’s EOC office ... must be stopped.”

But the minority shareholders said they would continue to pursue their $3bn (£1.9bn) damages claim against BP and could still demand documents during court proceedings.

The shareholders contend that BP and its representatives on the board of TNK-BP damaged the Russian oil venture by pursuing a strategic alliance with Rosneft, the state oil champion, alleging they breached a shareholder pact that grants TNK-BP right of first refusal to any new energy deals in Russia and Ukraine.

The shareholders are pursuing their legal action even though the proposed alliance between BP and Rosneft collapsed after BP’s Russian billionaire partners in TNK-BP were granted an injunction against the deal.

The raid on BP’s offices ratcheted up the pressure on the UK oil group just a day after Rosneft announced that it had replaced BP in the strategic alliance for Arctic exploration with ExxonMobil of the US.

Analysts and bankers in Moscow believe that BP’s partners in TNK-BP, known as Alfa-Access-Renova, may be behind the legal action by the minority shareholders. However, AAR denies any involvement in the proceedings.

Another Siberian court must still review BP’s appeal against the initial order issued at the end of July that gave BP two weeks to provide the court with documents relating to its collapsed deal with Rosneft. That hearing is scheduled for October 7.

The Russian bailiffs did not seize any documents during the raids but bundled them together and sealed them for storage in BP’s Moscow office awaiting further orders from the court.

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