BP Pressed for Records on Failed Russia Deal

MOSCOW - U.K. energy group BP PLC faced new demands Monday to release emails about a failed Arctic oil alliance with Russian group Rosneft that has led to a $12.5-billion shareholder suit.

The controversial claim from a tiny stakeholder was revived by a Siberian court last month after BP had announced receiving offers for its half of the troubled TNK-BP joint venture it now runs with four Soviet-born tycoons.

The plaintiff's lead attorney said a federal commercial court in Tyumen adjourned hearings Monday, until July 7, to consider a request from shareholder Andrei Prokhorov for access to BP's internal records on the Rosneft tie-up.

"We have filed the corresponding request but the court is yet to review it," Prokhorov's attorney Dmitry Chepurenko told AFP. "This is one of the questions that should be settled by the next hearing."

BP views the court hearings as a part of the Russians' strategy to put added pressure on it to hand over full operations of the highly-lucrative 50:50 joint venture.

The Siberian suit revolves around TNK-BP's inability last year to play a role in a $16-billion Rosneft-BP tie-up that the billionaires managed to block through European courts. The deal eventually went to the U.S. super-major ExxonMobil Corp., while BP has since been shut out of Rosneft's new Arctic signings and been stymied by a mutiny on the TNK-BP board.

The 409 billion ruble ($12.5 billion) suit stems from two claims filed by a previously unknown investor in the TNK-BP holding company, against BP and its chief executives in Russia.

The investor and his co-sponsors on a second suit claim a massive unrealized profit from BP's decision to seek the Rosneft venture without TNK-BP's involvement, in contravention of the joint venture's shareholder rules.

Prokhorov wants the documents to show that BP went into the Rosneft alliance knowing that it broke TNK-BP rules requiring it to offer the joint venture first rights to all its dealings in Russia and Ukraine.

Court bailiffs in Moscow had seized the same documents in August shortly after the initial claim against BP had been filed.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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